The bifurcation between public and private issues has been blurred to such an extent that the social norms which once prevailed no longer apply. Public figures constantly complain about the intrusion of unwanted exposure, and yet they generate and welcome their wealth precisely by means of voluntarily submitting to such magnified scrutiny. Notoriety in modernity results in the accumulation of a fattened checkbook; protestations aside, it is hollow hypocrisy indeed to claim violation of trespass.
In purely private lives, that which was once discreetly implied, but otherwise remained concealed, is now publicly displayed on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, and exposed on Websites throughout the ethereal universe of the Internet. While not formally designated as a “secret”, and perhaps not even covered under confidentiality terms, there was a general sense and acceptance that certain functions, both bodily and otherwise revelatory of actions within the strict confines of plaster walls, need not, should not, and would not be displayed for public consumption. Of course, hackers burglarize for purposes of nefarious means, but aside from access to financial divestitures, it turns out that much of the information exposed had already previously been displayed, anyway. Nevertheless, we feign violative dismay and engage in the parody of life where access of private lives excites the worst within us.
Medical information, of course, remains somewhat in a different category; although, from the confessions revealed in television commercials of medications available for conditions which would bring the pink of blushing to grandmothers of yore, one questions whether anything is left sacrosanct, anymore. But that is the ultimate distinction to be made, isn’t it? We can talk of medical conditions unwedded to a particular individual, and it remains acceptable; once the medical condition is identified with a specific person, and revealed, then a violation of privacy has occurred. Aside from standing in line at the Post Office and being forced to listen to old people talk about the most recent medical procedures performed, the majority of the population still considers certain information to be “private”, if not a family’s “secret”.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties at the Federal or Postal job, worries over maintaining the privacy of one’s medical file always remains a concern of inextricable engagement. Human beings being who they are, the chance that the most private of medical information must be, or will be, disseminated beyond the periphery of a “need to know” criteria, is greater than any normative constraints will guarantee.
In the end, the best approach is to simply do the best that one can in trying to limit exposure and revelation of that most private of information; but when the Federal Disability Retirement packet reaches the Agency’s Human Resource Office, en route to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the concerns of privacy will always follow where the parody which excites may not be able to fully be prevented.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire