You are on page 1of 20

Privacy Invasion by the News Media: Three Ethical Models Candace Cummins Gauthier University of North Carolina at Wilmington

_ In this article I provide an overview of philosophical conceptions of privacy and suggest 3 models to assist with the ethical analysis of privacy invasion by the news media. The models are framed by respect for persons (Kantian), the comparison of harms and benefits (Utilitarian), and the transfer of power. After describing the models, I demonstrate how they can be applied to news reporting that invades the privacy of public figures. In the past several years, invasions of privacy by the news media have become a routine part of the coverage of public figures. At the same time, this type of news gathering and reporting has come under increasing criticism by the news audience as well as by media critics. Questions are raised about the appropriateness and purpose of revealing information the subjects of such reports would prefer to keep private. Competing claims are made about the importance and value of privacy, on the one hand, and the public’s desire and need to know, on the other.What is needed is a way to compare these competing claims in the evaluation of invasions of privacy that is grounded in fundamental ethical concepts and principles. In this study three models are provided for the ethical analysis of privacy invasion by the news media. The models are described generally and then specifically applied to news reporting that invades the privacy of public figures. Philosophical Conceptions of Privacy Any analysis of privacy invasion from the perspective of philosophical

ethics must begin with a clarification of the meaning of privacy, itself, and its value for human life. James Rachels (1984) defined privacy as “our ability to control who has access to us and to information about us” (p. 292). Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 17(1), 20–34 Copyright © 2002, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. The value of privacy, according to Rachels, is that it allows us to maintain different social relationships with different people based on our ability to control our behavior and the kinds and amounts of information we share with others (pp. 292–297). Stanley Benn (1971) characterized the right to privacy as “claims not to be watched, listened to, or reported upon without leave, and not to have public attention focused upon one uninvited” (pp. 3–4). The value of privacy, on this view, is grounded in the Kantian principle of respect for persons, as rational choosers, because unauthorized observation interferes with the choice a person has made to act unobserved (Benn, 1978). According to Benn (1971), privacy is essential for developing meaningful personal relationships with others. Privacy is also necessary for freedom of action, as a citizen of a liberal state, within limits based on the rights of others (Benn, 1971). Jeffrey Reiman (1976) argued that privacy confers on the developing person the “moral title to his existence” (p. 39). It conveys to the individual that he owns his own existence, including his body, his mind, and the life he develops through them. Ownership in this sense implies control: control over one’s body and access to it, as well as access to one’s thoughts and memories (Reiman, 1976). Recognition of this ownership and control is, according to Reiman, “a precondition of personhood” (p. 39). Moreover, “the social ritual of privacy confirms, and demonstrates respect for, the personhood of already developed persons” (Reiman, 1976, p. 39). The value of privacy, then, is that it communicates to individuals that they have a moral right to this sort of control. Ferdinand Schoeman (1992) focused on the social norms of privacy that serve the function of “protecting individuals from the overreaching control of others” (p. 22). The value of privacy, on this conception, is that it sustains “social freedom” by shielding individuals from inappropriate social

pressure (Schoeman, 1992, pp. 89–107). However, privacy also has value for groups and relationships in that it allows individuals to be free from the power of the state and the general society in some areas of life but also allows some social control within certain relationships and groups (Schoeman, 1992). Amitai Etzioni (1999) examined privacy from the perspective of a communitarian social philosophy. Communitarians assume “that good societies carefully balance individual rights and social responsibilities, autonomy and the common good” (Etzioni, 1999, p. 184). According to Etzioni, contemporary society has privileged privacy at the expense of the common good and social responsibilities (pp. 187–188). Thus, he advocated limits on privacy that are necessary, for example, to promote public health and safety. Gauthier 21 Privacy is necessary for personal liberty, allowing individuals to control the situations in which they act and their level of intimacy with others. According to these philosophical conceptions, privacy is necessary for personal liberty, allowing individuals to control the situations in which they act and their level of intimacy with others. Privacy is also essential for meaningful personal relationships and meaningful action. Respect for privacy treats others as rational agents by respecting their choices to act unobserved. As a social ritual, respect for privacy is society’s way of granting to developing persons and confirming for developed persons their moral title to exercise control over access to themselves and to information about themselves. Privacy, from the social perspective, is also a form of protection from control by others, that must nevertheless be limited, in some cases, for the common good. Ethical Analyses of the Invasion of Privacy

A Kantian Analysis A Kantian analysis of the invasion of privacy must begin with Kant’s (1785/1959) principle of respect for persons: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only” (p. 47). The rationale for this limit on our actions comes fromKant’s distinction between persons and things. Things are not rational and are not able to make choices on the basis of reasons. Thus, they have only conditional worth and instrumental value. Their lack of rational nature and rational capacities allows us to use them for our own purposes (pp. 46–47). Persons, on the other hand, are rational beings or moral agents and are able to make choices on the basis of reasons. Thus, persons have unconditional worth and intrinsic value, and they must always be treated as ends-in-themselves, with respect and dignity (Kant, 1785/1959). This means that we must avoid treating others in ways that impose our own goals and purposes on them. Instead, the choices of others must be respected when our projects and actions involve them. Invading a person’s privacy treats that person as a mere means by interfering with the choice to keep certain information private. As Benn (1971) recognized, the person whose privacy is invaded is treated as an object or 22 Privacy Invasion by the News Media thing, rather than as a rational agent. When privacy is invaded by the news media, the subject of the story is treated merely as a means to further the purpose of the reporters and news organization, rather than with respect and dignity. These purposes may include informing the public and increasing circulation, ratings, or profit, as well as winning notoriety for reporters and organizations. Informing the public is, of course, the social function of the news media. This creates an interesting dilemma for those involved in producing the news. Invading the privacy of the subjects of news reports in order to provide information to the public violates the principle of respect for persons, treating them as objects rather than as rational agents whose choices should be respected. However, the members of the public must also be

treated as rational agents, capable of considered choice, and they need true and relevant information in order to make reasoned choices. This dilemma demonstrates that respect for persons is not an absolute principle that may be applied without limits or conflicts in every situation. It is, instead, inherently limited by equal respect for the personhood, rational capacity, and opportunity for choice of all persons. Thus, invading the privacy of some and interfering with their choices regarding the release of information may be necessary in order to permit others access to information needed to make equally important choices in their lives. According to the Kantian model, privacy invasions by the news media may be justified by a demonstration of the public’s need for this information for important choices in their lives. However, news people should start with the presumption of respecting the subjects of their stories as persons and thus respecting their choices regarding private information, as the initial application of the principle of respect for persons. Without evidence of the equal or greater importance of the choices for which the public needs this information, privacy should be respected. For example, when USA Today discovered that Arthur Ashe had AIDS, Ashe was called for confirmation and was informed that the newspaper intended to publish this report. This forced Mr. Ashe to immediately reveal this information in a press conference (Patterson & Wilkins, 1998). The manner in which this information was elicited from Mr. Ashe was not necessary for members of the public for any of their life choices. Thus, without any justifiable reason, Mr. Ashe’s original decision about how to deal with this very private matter was not respected by the newspaper, nor was he respected as a person. When private information is needed by the public, however, the importance of the relevant choices must be weighed: the choice of the subject of a news report to keep information private and the choices for which this same information is needed by the public.Acomparison of the importance of the choices on each side will not always be easy. Gauthier 23

Some of the questions that need to be addressed in such a comparison include the following: • Whyis this information considered private by the subject of the story? Do these reasons make sense? • Would I want to keep this information private, if it concerned me? • How important is it to the subject and the subject’s life that this information is kept private? • For what specific life choices does the public need this information? Are these relatively trivial or significant choices? How vital is this information to those choices? • Is similar information available from public sources? A Utilitarian Analysis AUtilitarian analysis of invasions of privacy by the news media involves a similar weighing of competing claims. In this case, the factors are specifically identified as consequences of the privacy invasion. The Utilitarian approach focuses on the benefits and harms that are expected to result from a particular instance of privacy invasion in a news report. As John Stuart Mill (1861/1979) pointed out, the consequences for “all concerned” must be considered and we must be “strictly impartial” when comparing the consequences of our actions for ourselves and for others (p. 16). According to the Utilitarian model, the potential harms and benefits of an action for all concerned must be identified and compared impartially in order to determine whether the action is morally right or wrong. If the potential harms outweigh the expected benefits, the act is morally wrong. If the expected benefits outweigh the potential harms, the act is morally right. One danger here is that we may be tempted to focus on the number of harms and benefits or the number of people who will be harmed or benefited. Neither of these will be a correct application of the Utilitarian model. Instead, it is the importance or significance of the harms and benefits involved that must be compared. According to the Utilitarian model, the potential harms and

benefits of an action for all concerned must be identified and compared impartially in order to determine whether the action is morally right or wrong. 24 Privacy Invasion by the News Media Evaluating a particular instance of privacy invasion by the news media on this model will require the reporter and editor to identify potential harms and benefits of revealing private information. Possible harms for the subject whose privacy is violated include the loss of reputation and job, emotional damage, and loss of the support of family, colleagues, and friends. Others may be harmed in these ways simply through their close association with this person. Possible harms for the reporter, editor, and news organization may be loss of reputation, loss of the trust of their audience and future sources, as well as the esteem of other news people. There may also be legal consequences to consider. An argument could also be made that media invasions of privacy degrade public discourse in a way that is damaging to the whole community. Potential benefits for the news organization may be increased market share and profits and, for the reporters involved, notoriety, promotions, and prizes. Expected benefits for the public may include receiving essential information for choices such as how to vote, who to trust and support, how to spend one’s time and money, or to motivate needed social change. Listing possible harms and benefits will require imagination as well as empathy. Even without the next step of comparing these consequences, simply recognizing the potential harms of privacy invasion may be a useful exercise for reporters and editors who may value their own and the public’s right to know over any individual’s personal privacy. The more difficult part of a Utilitarian analysis is comparing the expected harms and benefits. This requires fairness and impartiality. It involves the weighing of competing claims and interests that is difficult even for an independent observer whose own interests are not at stake. This sort of comparison will be based, in the end, on the individual reporter’s or editor’s own values, although there are certainly shared values among news people and in society, generally. Yet, because individuals may prioritize

even their shared values differently, there will often be disagreement over the morality of a particular instance of privacy invasion by the news media. One example that comes to mind concerns the news stories reporting that Oliver Sipple was a homosexual after he saved President Ford’s life in 1975. Clearly the reporters and editors involved believed the benefits of reporting this very private information outweighed the potential harms. However, others may disagree and might argue that the public’s awareness of this information and even the laudable benefit of changing social attitudes toward gays were outweighed by the great damage to Mr. Sipple’s life, damages which certainly had to have been foreseen. In other cases, privacy invasion by the news media may be justified by the benefits to society, as Etzioni noted, for the promotion of the common good. The Utilitarian model demonstrates that privacy is a prima facie, Gauthier 25 rather than an absolute value, because it may be overridden in particular cases by competing values such as promoting public health and safety, preventing fraud or deception, and supporting and protecting the democratic process. However, when individual reporters or editors are attempting to justify a specific invasion of privacy by benefits for the common good, they must be reasonably certain that the information revealed really will promote the common good and that this good is generally recognized, as such, by the community. The danger to be avoided is that news professionals, wielding their extraordinary power to uncover and reveal private information, may end up imposing their own conceptions of the common good on the rest of the community and doing so in a way that violates the privacy of some of its members. A Transfer of Power Analysis A final ethical model for analyzing invasions of privacy builds on the conception of personal privacy as our control over who has access to us and to information about us. If we think of the control that privacy affords

as a form of power (Boling, 1996), the invasion of privacy can be understood in terms of the theft of that power. On this model, personal privacy affords the individual a measure of power against the rest of the world, other members of the community, and the government. It provides a way to protect ourselves from others and especially from more powerful institutions, groups, and individuals and, when respected, it gives us an entitlement to that protection. Privacy protects our thoughts, words, relationships, and activities from being used against us. It protects us from the judgments and repressive or punitive reactions of institutions, groups, and individuals. Privacy, understood in this way, serves as a valuable counterweight to the power of others. When privacy is violated we lose the protection that privacy provides and others gain power over us. When privacy is invaded by the news media, through investigative activities, for example, the reporters, editors, and news organization gain power over the subject of the information. With private information in hand, they have the power to reveal it or not, destroy reputations, relationships, and lives, or not. An example of the coercive use of that power was noted previously in the case of Arthur Ashe. Once private information is reported, the public also gains power over the subject of such reports. It is a power based on knowledge and consists of the power to discuss, and evaluate, condemn, or defend the individual and her words, actions, and relationships. The protection against the world that privacy, conceived as power, has given the individual is reduced or may be lost altogether. The invasion of privacy can be described on this 26 Privacy Invasion by the News Media model as the theft of power from the subject of the news report and the unauthorized transfer of this power to the public. Like the Kantian and Utilitarian models, application of this model will require reporters, editors, and news organizations to clearly identify the purpose for which privacy has been invaded. Because invasions of privacy by the news media strip power from the individual whose privacy is violated and transfer that power to the public, the purpose for which this unauthorized transfer of power takes place is the most important consideration

in evaluating such reporting. Why would the members of the public need or even want the power over an individual gained by having information the person wishes to keep private? The most obvious reason, and possibly the only justifiable reason, may be as a counterweight to the power the individual in question has, or may in the future have, over them. The Transfer of Power model will be most useful for justifying invasions of the privacy of political officials and candidates for public office. This suggests that the Transfer of Power model will be most useful for justifying invasions of the privacy of political officials and candidates for public office. One of the defining aspects of a democratic society is the power of the citizens, themselves, to control how and by whom they are governed. Information about those seeking or serving in government positions is essential for the exercise of this power. Thus, the transfer of the power that comes with information from those seeking or holding public office to those who must choose who to vote for and who to support may be morally justified. According to this model, that justification will be based on the importance of the particular private information to the democratic process as compared with the loss of control over that information for the person whose privacy has been violated.

Privacy and the Media Coverage of Public Figures When privacy is invaded in the news media it is most often the privacy of public figures or those identified as such by news people. Stories on the private lives of those unknown to the public is hardly news and unlikely to be of interest to many members of the news audience. However, once someone is covered by the news media and brought to public attention, through heroic action, for example, or simply by being the victim of a tragGauthier 27 edy or crime, that person may be considered a public figure, at least by reporters

and news organizations, if not by the general public. If this occurs, the privacy of the “accidental” public figure is also in jeopardy, as occurred in the case of Oliver Sipple. Focusing on the most common cases in which the privacy of truly “public” figures is invaded, we can evaluate this type of reporting using the Kantian, Utilitarian, and Transfer of Power models of privacy invasion, against the backdrop of the value of privacy. It is important to keep in mind the importance of privacy for personhood and for human lives and relationships as the invasion of privacy by the news media is analyzed. It is tempting to dismiss privacy as a trivial desire on the part of excessively secretive individuals who simply want to keep private matters from public scrutiny or to assume that those in the public eye have no real need for privacy. The value of privacy for all human beings must be carefully weighed against the insistent demand for news and information. Public figures who may be the subject of privacy-invading news reports include sports and entertainment professionals, political figures, as well as former and present public officials and candidates for public office. Some may argue that because all of these individuals have in the past, presently do, or may in the future receive their status, power, and income from public support, they relinquish all personal privacy. Political officials are public servants whose salary is paid by our tax dollars, just as the income of sports and movie stars is based on box office sales. However,we need to be careful here that we do not confuse public support with public ownership. No employer is given a right of ownership over the entire life and personhood of his or her employees. There will be, then, more or less justifiable invasions of the privacy even of public figures whose status, power, and income come from the public. Applying the Kantian Model According to the Kantian model, we should begin with a presumption against news reports that invade the privacy of public figures, based on respect

for persons and their choices to keep certain matters private. The impulse to investigate a rumor or tip and the even more compelling desire to publish a story once private information is uncovered must be justified by respect for the persons who need this information for their own life decisions. This requirement has the advantage of forcing news professionals to consider from the beginning the real purpose of their privacy-violating investigations and reports. On this model, if there is no relationship whatsoever between the private information and news consumers’ own decisions, invasion of the pri28 Privacy Invasion by the News Media vacy, even of public figures, cannot be justified. Once such a relationship is established, news professionals will still need to compare the value of privacy and the importance of keeping this particular information private with the importance of the decisions for which this information is needed and the significance of this information to those choices. For sports and entertainment stars it will be difficult to justify the release of private information to the public, using the Kantian model. The decision of whether or not to attend a movie or sporting event is relatively trivial compared with the value of privacy to all human beings. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine that private information about a sports or movie star would have much of an effect on that decision. For political figures, public officials, and candidates for public office, invasions of privacy are more likely to be justified on this model. With the value of privacy to all persons in mind, once the importance to the individual person of keeping particular information private is considered, the key questions will be the following: For what specific choices does the news audience need this information? How significant are these choices and how important is this information to those choices?

For what specific choices does the news audience need this information? How significant are these choices and how important

is this information to those choices?

Using as an example the news reports of Reverend Jessie Jackson’s affair and illegitimate child, we can suggest how this model might be applied. In this case, Reverend Jackson’s reasons for deciding to keep this information private are certainly understandable and likely to be shared by most members of the press and the public. It was also extremely important for his reputation as well as his professional and family life that he be allowed to deal with this matter in private. On the other hand, some members of the news audience may need to make their own decisions about whether or not to support Reverend Jackson’s advocacy organization and activities, for example through financial contributions, and whether or not to trust his judgment concerning political affairs. Comparing these decisions it could be argued that they are of equal significance, at least for the lives of the decisionmakers themselves. What remains is to determine the importance of this particular information to the decision of whether or not to support and trust Reverend Jackson. Gauthier 29 It is in relation to this last question that relevance is most often discussed. We may ask how relevant a political figure, public official, or candidate’s drug use twenty years ago or more recent extramarital affair really is to the choices that citizens must make in regard to this person. It will also make a difference whether the political figure is presently serving or seeking to serve in a public office or, on the other hand, is a former public official or simply a political figure without direct responsibility for public policy. What sets those who presently hold, or are seeking, public office apart is the fact that they are responsible for public policy, and for elected officials, the fact that they must be chosen by the majority of voters. For those who presently hold, or are seeking, public office some of the factors that may affect

the judgment of relevance include when an event occurred, whether or not the private information contradicts the public official’s stated goals, values, and beliefs, as well as whether or not and how the events reported would actually affect the performance of the official’s public duties. Applying the Utilitarian Model Based on the Utilitarian model, invading the privacy of public figures will be justified only when the expected benefits outweigh the potential harms. Given the value of privacy to all human beings, this model also requires that reporters and editors begin with a presumption against invading privacy. To emphasize this point, it is best to start the analysis with a consideration of the potential harms for the person whose privacy will be violated. There is no doubt that privacy invasion causes the harms associated with the loss of respect, liberty, sense of personhood, protection, and control that privacy affords all human beings. Public figures may experience additional harm when their privacy is invaded if the information disclosed jeopardizes their personal relationships or their professional or social status. These further harms, which will be specific to each person and to the nature of the private information at issue, must be considered as well. Other possible harms to the news reporters and organizations and to the public were noted previously and must also be included. Turning to the expected benefits of privacy invasion, it must be pointed out that these will actually be benefits for others, rather than for the public figure whose privacy is invaded. News organizations need to be especially cautious about attributing spurious benefits to those whose privacy they invade. For example, the editor of USA Today defended that newspaper’s plan to publish Arthur Ashe’s AIDS diagnosis in part by claiming that once the information was revealed, Mr. Ashe and his family were “free of a great weight” (Patterson &Wilkins, 1998, p. 138). This is both paternalistic and patronizing. Furthermore, it is difficult to identify real benefits for 30 Privacy Invasion by the News Media anyone but the reporters involved and USA Today, itself, from revealing this particular information. Once attention is focused on realistic benefits, the true purpose of the

privacy invasion must be identified. Given the personal, social, and professional harms involved, invading the privacy of public figures will only be justified by benefits for the public in terms of providing vital information. Although benefits for reporters and news organizations may be considered, they will not be enough, by themselves, to outweigh the harms to the subject of such stories, based on the requirement of impartiality. The emphasis, then, when considering potential benefits must be on the benefits of having this information for the news audience. There is likely to be general agreement on the potential harms and benefits to this point in the analysis. However, when benefits to the public come into consideration, there is likely to be wide disagreement about their significance, considered by themselves, and in comparison with the harms involved. One specific area of disagreement concerns whether the public should have access only to information that is needed, for example, to make political and other important life choices or that is simply of interest or desired, based on human curiosity. This has been discussed in the literature in terms of the difference between “need to know” and “want to know” (Patterson &Wilkins, 1998, pp. 126–127). Thus, for example, invading the privacy of sports and entertainment figures in news reports may be justified by the public’s desire to know, as with Arthur Ashe, but would hardly be justified by the public’s need for this information. Because privacy invasion has such devastating effects on all human beings and may be even more harmful for public figures, according to the Utilitarian model this can only be justified when the public actually needs this information for political or other important life choices. As with the Kantian model, this leads to the questions, often framed in terms of relevance, of how important these choices are and how significant this information is to these choices. It is because the answers we give to these questions will ultimately be based on our personal values that decisions made by one news organization to investigate and report on the private lives of public figures often come under criticism by other news organizations, as well as by the public. For example, when the details of President Clinton’s sexual relationship

with aWhite House intern were investigated and made public by the news media, there was both support and criticism of these privacy-invading reports. Most people recognized the potential for personal and professional damage to the individuals involved and their families, as well as harm for the nation as a whole by degrading the quality of public discourse. There was greater disagreement, however, about the expected benefits and the importance of those benefits in comparison with the potential for harm. Gauthier 31 Given the harms involved, a Utilitarian analysis would ask whether or not the citizens of the country needed this information for political or other important choices. Some might argue that, because the President was not eligible for reelection, the relationship had already ended, and his sexual conduct did not affect his public duties, this information would have no bearing on any political or other decisions the people needed to make. Others might argue that this information was important for the decision about whether or not to support the President and his policies and whether or not to place trust in our highest government officials. Applying the Transfer of Power Model The Transfer of Power model suggests another way in which the news media may be able to justify invading the privacy of public figures. This justification will be limited, however, to public figures who hold or aspire to positions of power over the members of the news audience, for example, as public policymakers. When the person whose privacy is invaded already possesses power over members of the public or has the potential of gaining and exercising such power, the transfer of some of this power may be a justifiable way to provide a more equitable balance of power. It might be argued that knowledge of matters that political officials would rather keep private is an important counterweight to the power they already have or may have over the citizens of a democratic community. However, to be morally justified, this coercive transfer of power would need to serve some larger social purpose rather than simply to

wrest power from one party and invest it in others in order to balance the power involved. For example, it would need to be demonstrated that the power citizens gain, in this way, would better enable them to engage in public discourse concerning public policies and to make more informed political decisions. Onewaytounderscorethis point is tocompareinvasions of theprivacy of public figures who are government officials, responsible for making public policy, such as President Clinton, with similar treatment of those who are not, such as Oliver Sipple, Arthur Ashe, and Reverend Jackson. Our common reaction is to be more critical, more condemning of the latter.We ask whynews reporters spend time and effort to uncover and report such information. We look for some social purpose in terms of informing the public andwhenit cannot be found,weattribute such invasions of privacymore to the profit motiveandto sensationalism than to a perceptiononthe part of reporters and news organizations that the public needs this information. This commonresponse reflects the judgment that the news media, as opposed to the entertainment media, have a larger social purpose and should be dedicated primarily to informing and educating their audience. 32 Privacy Invasion by the News Media Invasions of the privacy of political figures by the news media may then be justified by the creation of a more equitable balance of power between the subject of a news report and the public. However, there must be a reason to believe that some larger social purpose is served by this unauthorized transfer of power. In particular, we need to ask how this transfer of power serves the educational and informative function of the news media and how the members of the public might use the power this private information gives them. Stripping away the power that privacy provides each of us to protect ourselves from others and, perhaps, more powerful institutions and individuals, cannot be justified simply by the satisfaction of idle curiosity or to provide fuel for gossip. [These models] call our attention to morally relevant considerations: how persons are

being treated, the harms and benefits that may result from investigating and reporting private matters, and the power issues at stake. Because the application of these ethical models ultimately appeals to the individual news person’s own values, it may appear that the models, themselves, are relatively weak. However, like ethical principles in other areas of professional life, these models provide a way to approach and organize our thinking about morally controversial types of news gathering and reporting, such as invasions of privacy. They call our attention to morally relevant considerations: how persons are being treated, the harms and benefits that may result from investigating and reporting private matters, and the power issues at stake. They also provide a shared language for discussion of specific instances of privacy invasion in the newsroom and editorial conferences. The models do provide a number of ways to justify privacy invasion. Yet, they also require that those attempting to do so first consider all of the relevant factors and to articulate their justification in terms of a shared, rather than a purely personal, morality. It is true that the final judgment of whether or not privacy invasion is justified rests on personal values. However, the use of ethical models to reach that judgment means that this will be more than simply a matter of individual choice or preference. These models provide a way to challenge the evaluation of others and to defend one’s own evaluation in the face of criticism. Gauthier 33 Conclusions The value of privacy to each of us, for the exercise of individual liberty, for control over the circumstances of our actions, for our personal relationships, for our individual development as persons, and for protection against the power of others, provides a persuasive argument against privacy

invasion by the news media. Yet, news reports that reveal inherently private matters are defended on the basis of the public’s need or demand for this type of information. The ethical models presented here have provided three ways to consider these competing arguments, in terms of respect for persons, the comparison of harms and benefits, and the transfer of power. Applying these models has demonstrated that members of the news media should begin with a presumption against invading privacy, but that privacy invasions may be morally justified in limited cases, for example when they expose certain kinds of information about those responsible for public policy. Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn here is that privacy invasions by the news media, even when public officials and candidates for public office are involved, cannot ethically be considered routine, just part of the process of reporting the news. Rather, they must be justified by persuasive moral argument.

References Benn, S. (1971). Privacy, freedom, and respect for persons. In J. R. Pennock & J. W. Chapman (Eds.), Nomos XIII: Privacy (pp. 1–26). New York: Atherton Press. Benn, S. (1978). The protection and limitarion of privacy, Part I. Australian Law Journal, 52, 601–612. Boling, P. (1996). Privacy and the politics of intimate life. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press. Etzioni, A. (1999). The limits of privacy. New York: Basic Books. Kant, I. (1959). Foundations of the metaphysics of morals (L.W. Beck, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs–Merrill. (Original work published in 1785) Mill, J. S. (1979). Utilitarianism. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. (Original work published in 1861)

Patterson, P., & Wilkins, L. (1998). Media ethics: Issues and Cases (3rd ed.) Boston: McGraw–Hill. Rachels, J. (1984). Why privacy is important. In F. Schoeman (Ed.), Philosophical dimensions of privacy (pp. 290–299). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reiman, J. (1976). Privacy, intimacy, and personhood. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6, 26–44. Schoeman, F. (1992). Privacy and social freedom. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 34 Privacy Invasion by the News Media