Work in progress, incomplete.
Certain events or trends have proven to be catalysts for major discussion or reform of the laws in place.
The most widely known catalyst to date, is the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The reaction to this catalyst continues in a very direct way with the ongoing military operations of coalition forces in Afghanistan. In the United States at the very least, this caused a great debate as to when our civil liberties are necessary when it comes to combating international terrorism, with legislation quickly following suit, such as the USA Patriot Act. With an active, leadership-oriented foreign policy, many other countries have followed suit with regards to counter-terrorism measures.
Issues have arisen in the United States such as the legitimacy of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow warrantless wiretapping, which directly affects the privacy of Internet Service Provider consumers.
However, there is a new catalyst that is emerging as a trend that has major implications for the law with regard to privacy versus expression: the proliferation of confidential materials not authorized and therefore proliferated following a breach of confidence. Without sounding too complicated, this means there is an emerging trend in using information intended to remain private in a public sphere due to a perceived “public interest” of the private information. Still too complicated? Maybe this has to do with the way individuals and organizations all together are flexing their PR muscle.
There is a lack of analysis provided in the rhetoric approving or disapproving of “public interest” breaches of confidence and the proliferation of the confidential material following the initial breach by an original actor before such rhetoric is published, and this is why there are major implications for the law. What does not help clear up the confusion on how future legislation may proceed is the silence assumed by the owner on the matter of the owner’s confidential material and whether or not the information contained is legitimate, though the silence can be there for a legitimate reason, to protect security. It is not just because this is an emerging trend that confidentiality is breached, it is because the rhetoric floating around the airwaves may not be focusing on the exact legal and social issues at play here. Tabloid-style rhetoric is not only unnecessary, but it is irresponsible when a serious matter is the focus of the media, such as confidential material.
What is certain is that with this emerging trend of breaches of confidence that cannot be contained by the traditional injunction, an increasing focus will be set on the consequences for breachers in the criminal justice system as well as the security applied to protect private information.