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4 August, 2006

My own business stays mine

I've just remembered something that was probably a formative event, and one reason I'm so open and trusting (yeah, right).

Several years ago, my mother bought a second-hand electric typewriter (I did say it was several years ago). The ribbon supplied was almost used-up, so one of the very first things she did was replace it with a new ribbon – and read the old one. It was the one-use variety, so everything that had ever been written was clearly visible as one continuous line of text.

As it happens, her 'curiosity' paid-off: she discovered a personals ad, and hence that the seller, a work colleague, was gay. Okay; perhaps the seller was foolish to leave potentially embarrassing material in the typewriter, but who'd have expected a middle-aged clerical assistant to go to the effort of reading a typewriter ribbon? It wouldn't have even occurred to me that private messages were accessible, and if it had, I wouldn't have dreamt of reading them. Fundamentally, I have no interest in knowing the secrets of strangers, and respect friends far too much to pry. It's simply inconceivable.

Growing up in an environment where I had the impression nothing was absolutely private, where anything could be open to covert yet casual scrutiny, I immediately learned to keep anything truly personal, and certainly anything potentially incriminating, within my own head.

This might also help to explain my total opposition to non-essential state imposition on the individual's right to anonymity, such as ID cards.

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