The Limits of Rights

Speech Bubble

Speech Bubble (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously the past five months the big talk about our Constitutionally enshrined rights has been about firearm ownership. I do not want to get too much into that issue, because we have already been over so much territory there. I will say, however, that while I believe that the 2nd amendment is still important (something quite a few of my fellow leftists have been arguing against) all of our rights have been found to be limited in the interest of the rights of others No right is one hundred percent sacrosanct for the individual, not if that individual wants to be considered a member of a civil society.

That includes the right to privacy. Please do not mistake this as a call for easier access by authorities to our private space to search and seize our property in the name of security. While there are always legitimate limitations on even that right, the past 11 and a half years the state has taken far too broad a view of how much power they have to arbitrarily ignore those rights. No, my current bone to pick, and it is one I have touched on before, is our right to privacy in public spheres, and how our right to speech is often muddled with our right to privacy, making it difficult to defend either (because when you claim one right is being violated, when it is in fact the other, you confuse the defense, and make it easier for those you are defending against to paint you a fool.)

I am going to leave aside, for the moment, the discussion about our online friends “violating” our “space” on social media. I have discussed that before. What I have not discussed is employers using our statements on social media against us, before and after we are hired. Social media, as I have said before, is just that “social.” You have a right to say what you will on it (though most such websites seem to have arbitrary definitions of what is offensive or harmful.) However, anyone can see it. You are shouting, as I have said before, from your porch. Yes you have the right to shout those things, however in doing so, you have no serious expectation of privacy.

Now, again, this is entirely separate from your right to free speech. On the whole, you should have the right to say what you will, so long as you are not threatening someone. I find it a little worrisome, and a lot silly, that many companies casually boast that they search someone’s Facebook history before deciding to hire them. Unless someone is repeatedly boasting about behaving unethically these companies really have no cause to not hire someone based on their online activities, and yet there is a litany of online “sins” you can commit to have you taken out of consideration, including, apparently, having a social life offline. With all that in mind, however, if you have a propensity for airing grievances in a public space, and public image is a big part of the job you are applying for, then yes, they have a right to make a decision based on that.

Which is not to say at all that we should be willing to give up all our rights in these two arenas. We just need to understand that others have rights as well. The right to protect their interests, within reason, and the right to their judgement as to whether or not you are fit to work toward those interests. They do not, though, have other rights, some of which they still legally claim thanks to some cowardly law makers, such as asking you for your social media passwords. That is akin to asking you for your keys to your house or car, and without probable cause, no one has the right to ask for those. So by all means, remember you have your right to privacy, and to speech, but keep in mind that as long as others have their claim to their rights, no one’s rights are unlimited.

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