Monday, January 14, 2013

Ethics for Magical People: Psychic Voyeurism (1 of 4)

In the modern world of social media, it is easy to track people without them finding out. We often do this with relative ease and without any compunction. The problem of people tracking people is so prevalent that consumer agencies warn people of phishing scams to elicit private information or maliciously placing spyware on their computers.

Much like computer hackers and phishers, those who have magickal abilities, such as remote viewing or ESP, can follow a person with ease. Most people, with this ability, will use it in the guise of being helpful. Usually, they become the psychic version of “Life Alert tm,” watching over another person and notifying others of emergencies or accidents. These magickal people take it upon themselves to oversee the safety and well-being of another person. However, these well-meaning people often do not have permission to do this, and are thereby committing a breach of privacy.

People who collect and use personal data in their jobs, such as bank loan officers, grapple with the ethics of what should they collect, why, and how they use this information. People with remote viewing abilities need to know how data collectors resolve these dilemmas. Magickal people should be aware of how the right of access to information collides with the right to personal privacy.

An example of one of these dilemmas is the local supermarket that offers in exchange for your personal information, membership in their shoppers’ club. Members receive cheaper prices for their groceries. Should I give this supermarket my personal information for the ability to buy lower cost groceries? What will the store do with this information? Since their main objective is to make a profit, I see no reason to trust the supermarket to keep my personal information private. They could sell it to other marketers intent on selling me things. Therefore in this case, I choose not to give the grocery my information.

Writing for the Ecclasian Fellowship (a Neo-Pagan organization), Mark Chametzky discusses how the Wiccan Rede applies to data collection obtained by divination (which can apply to remote viewing). Chametzky states, “Don’t seek out information for which you do not have permission to obtain.” In other words, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Don’t investigate.” He emphasizes that invading another person’s privacy is a form of psychic dictatorship. At the expense of another person’s sovereignty, the remote viewer’s concerns are paramount. She becomes the final authority on what is important for the person whom she is spying on.

In U.S. law, there is a concept known as the “Expressed Will to Privacy.” If a person desires to keep a matter private, it stays private. Once a person gives their telephone number to a company, the data ceases to be private. Therefore, consumer protection agencies warn people about being tricked into giving out personal information to unethical companies.

In his paper, “Technology as a Threat to Privacy,” J.J. Britz of the University of Pretoria (South Africa), writes, “Privacy is an important right because it is a necessary condition for other rights such as freedom and personal autonomy. There is a relationship between privacy, freedom and human dignity. Respecting a person’s privacy is to acknowledge such a person’s right to freedom and to recognize that individual as an autonomous human being.”

Clifford Christians (Director, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois) gives the basis for Britz’s assertions. The 1948 Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations lays out the right to privacy. This U.N. document codifies the rights and dignity of every human being. Therefore any exception, to a privacy policy, that impinges on a person’s autonomy is suspect.

Many privacy violations revolve around the concept of “for your own good” or “on your behalf.” Goldberg, Hill, and Shostack in the “Boston University Law Review” points out that moral hazard come up between the data collector and the person, whom he fears will not consent to provide him the information that he wants. Desiring this particular data, the collector decides to act on his own. His reasoning is based on his perception of “in the best needs of the person.”  Instead of getting permission, the data collector becomes the overseer of the other person. The authors charge that most reasons for collection without permission are trivial.

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