Tiger Woods has always made a concerted effort to protect his privacy. He even owns a massive yacht named "Privacy". While Tiger makes his living based more on his public profile than his ability to swing a golf club, there will now be many who might argue that his desire for privacy was directly associated with his guilt. That he had something to hide all along.
I agree there's a certain responsibility that people like Tiger should have when it comes to their relationship with the public. While Tiger's fame may be based on his golfing prowess, his income is a direct result of his popularity, and the support of millions of fans and consumers.
However I also recognize that Tiger has a right to privacy, the same as any person, even if his wealth and power allow him to exert that right better than others.
Which is not to say that I support Tiger's right to be an idiot. If he wants to use his power and position to do things that the rest of us would neither be able, nor approve of, then he deserves the consequences. Within the spectacle of the coverage around his personal life few have talked about the way in which powerful men feel they can get away with things the rest of us could not. So in this regard I think Tiger should suffer the same stress and humiliation that any powerful man should when they abuse their position and the public trust.
Yet I also think it's important we return to the issue of privacy, and make an effort to separate it from the issue of guilt, or of doing bad/naughty things. Too often the enemies of privacy, or more benignly those who discard privacy, say they are doing so because they have nothing to hide. What is there to be afraid of if you're doing nothing wrong?
I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.
Bruce Schneier offered a wonderful reply to this from an essay he wrote in 2006:
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.
We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.
For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.
This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.
Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.