Snooping & The Nature Of Inquiry

Are you a snooper? Its okay just admit it. You like to rifle through the closets of your Air Bnb hosts. You are oh-so- cleverly looking over people’s shoulder at coffee shops to see what they are working on. You always want to know who is on the other line when somebody puts you on hold. The word for it is NOSY. It carries a negative connotation but is this a bad thing?

For those of us with a perpetually curious air we sometimes get busted locking our significant other out of their email accounts because we were just trying to see what they were up to. Or maybe we for got to put our little sister’s journal back where we found it. The snooping we do isn’t particularly harmful but it is something that we do satisfy our curiosity.

From the highest levels of government espionage, to  the trivial nature of looking through a spouses texts this snooping is part of our lives and have to come to terms with why we do it. At core, there would be no snooping if there were no secrets.

The argument for government surveillance is the the threat of danger to our public. Government agencies believe that they need greater access to what might be deemed as secrets to be able to preemptively address threats to our population. In this case the “investigative snooper” knows what type of information they are looking for at least in some sense.

This may be the case with the nosy neighbor as well. Maybe there is a subtle cause for suspicion that is leading for the person to be curious about what lies beneath. The point is that there is something that is being sought after, either clues to a threat or more information about the mysterious neighbors.

Another type of snooping is the patrol snooper. Patrol snooping is an arbitrary roaming or even “routine search” that isn’t looking for anything in particular. This could be when we look through our significant other’s messages when they leave their phone open but do not go through the trouble of trying to find out their passcode.

Patrol snooping is not necessarily any less invasive nor does it mean that serious consequences don’t come from it. It simply means that the nature of the inquire is without intent. When we human beings send a rover to Mars we could be looking for water or signs of life, but we also could just be looking to see what’s there.

Understanding the nature of our nosiness can help us to understand whether it is a positive or negative thing to continue the line of inquiry. If you are looking for something negative, it is possible, as with the government agencies, that anything you find can have some negative connotation in a certain context. The ethical line sits ambiguously somewhere between capturing adequate information to make decisions and damaging the relationship.

If we are not inquisitive we will only find knowledge when it falls in out lap, but when we push to hard to uncover secrets, sometimes we can damage the frame work that allows us to access information freely. We should always be seeking to manage the density from a soft inquiry, to a stiff one with some graduality.

This goes from the CIA, to the roommate. if you’re going to be a snooper do it with  etiquette.



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