But apart from the high-minded and the paranoid, privacy per se is not a major issue in our politics. Most people want the convenience of the internet far more than they want the private spaces that older forms of communication protected. They shrug off the stalker-ish ways that corporations hurl their ads at you throughout your day. They put surveillance devices in their homes and pockets without a qualm. They accept hackings and online shamings the way a Californian shrugs off earthquakes. They assume that the extremists being surveilled and censored and sometimes arrested probably deserve it. And they welcome the possible advantages of panoptical living, hoping for less crime and less police misconduct, better public health, more exposure of corruption — plus, of course, the chance to see their favorite celebrities in the nude.
So for those who object inherently to our new nakedness, regard the earthquakes as too high a price for Amazon’s low prices, or fear what an Augustus or a Robespierre might someday do with all this architecture, the best hope for a partial restoration of privacy has to involve more than just an anxiety about privacy alone. It requires a more general turn against the virtual, in which fears of digital nakedness are just one motivator among many — the political piece of a cause that’s also psychological, intellectual, aesthetic and religious.