The Media and Privacy

By Brett Burney

Preview

Which is more important - our freedom of speech or our right to privacy? This is the main topic for conversation at The Media and Privacy parallel session on Thursday, April 6, 2000. Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, will moderate the discussion on the media's right to inform the public contrasted with an individual's right to a private life.

To get a good idea of the topic, Commissioner Cavoukian has a short paper printed in the proceedings. She asks: "is the strength of our presumption of privacy equal to the forces promoting freedom of speech?" She declares that "any media intrusions into the private world of an individual should have to be justified on some legitimate grounds involving true public interest, and not just because it's a 'good story.'" Raymond Wacks, another panelist for the session, also writes a paper in the proceedings that points out the pivotal issue: We demand immediate news today. The Internet allows the media to provide immediate news. But do we sacrifice the individual's right to privacy when news stories flash on our screens before an individual has a right to respond or react to such news?

Wacks eloquently sums up the current view that is generally shared about the media and privacy: "only wimps are for privacy ... tough guys go for free speech." This session will discover whether the wimps or the tough guys will prevail in the end.