I have just read about David Lee, the former chancellor of the University of Northern Virginia. He resigned recently. You see the University of Northern Virginia, unfortunately, was under investigation for possible Visa violations (the endorsement on a passport, not the credit card) and as a part of that investigation, immigration authorities seized computers and documents as tends to be done in such things. While the investigation is not yet, as far as I know, completed, Chancellor Lee did not resign because of that aspect of the investigation.
The Smoking Gun, a site whose avowed purpose is to bring you “exclusive documents–cool, confidential, quirky–that can’t be found elsewhere on the Web. Using material obtained from government and law enforcement sources, via Freedom of Information requests, and from court files nationwide, we guarantee everything here is 100% authentic” published four to six “exposes” on Mr. Lee siting, in detail, with photos, his CollarMe profile stating interest and experience in the BDSM lifestyle. The information from this expose was then repeated in differing forms to garner a result of over 490,000 Google Results.
There is little I can say about the disconnect some people seem to feel between their face and sexual proclivities being posted on one on-line site and their responsible, socially acceptable professions on another, about their feelings that, “it is my business, and I am doing nothing illegal” and the societal mores in the growing conservative political climate we are experiencing (and will experience more severely, I fear) where the legality and consensuality of your sexual life has little to do with its broader consequences. I do believe that the least that can be said about Mr. Lee is that he had a Gary Heartian laps of judgment and certainly paid the price.
But there are other aspects of this situation which disturb me equally. Everything I can read about this situation points in the direction of “The Smoking Gun” having gotten their information through a Visa investigation by the immigration authorities. What is it, I would ask, in an investigation of the Visas of the students of the University of Northern Virginia that involves the sexual interests of the officers of the institution under investigation? Are we to assume that any and all information seized in a governmental inquiry is now a matter of public record and can be released to the media?
An extreme example, but let us assume that you have had private emails with a close friend, parent or child about your concerns about being a homosexual or perhaps communication with your daughter about her unreported rape. If your computers are seized by a government agency because of some tax issue, are these communications now a matter of public record? Can they now garner their own 400,000 results on Google? I am not, in any way, trained in the law, but the possibility concerns me.
Do I wish to promote the closeting of our “private” lives. No, not in any way. I fear it is not even possible in this age of computers, internet, on-line dating sites and Face Book. I only wish to say that, like putting on a safety-belt, it may be wise to do some small action just in case something rare and unforeseen comes by and wishes to destroy your life for the sake of a little readership.