Leonard Pitts Jr.: Freedom to be left alone takes a hit

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: January 11, 2013
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Would you publish a database of people who have filed for bankruptcy? People who have been foreclosed? People who have tax liens? Or would you say this information, while public, has no news value; tells a reader nothing he needs to know and does so at a price of discomfiting some law-abiding citizen, putting their business in the street?

Yes, it can be argued that guns are different because, while legal, they also embody legitimate concerns for personal safety. But it can also be argued that if you really want to know if your neighbor has a gun, you can ask — or, if that is not an option, you can look it up.

The Journal News database seems an act of excess, the sort of thing that is done because it can be done, with little thought given to the consequences of the doing.

And if one consequence is that some New York state gun owners feel exposed, the larger consequence for all of us is a further chipping away of private spaces, a further compromise of the increasingly quaint idea that one has a right to live peacefully and an expectation to not be bothered in so doing.

This is not about freedom of the press or freedom to own guns. It is, rather, about the freedom to be left alone, and whether that's still sustainable or whether henceforth we must all live exposed. The technology being what it is, it's worth remembering that the answer to that question, whatever it may be, will be shaped both by journalists and by those who are not.

Consider that, while some gun owners vented their anger by making threats and sending baking soda in the mail, others expressed themselves more pointedly. They posted home addresses for Journal News employees online.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES