Italy boasts, if that is the right word, long and complex privacy laws, which are supposed to protect its extrovert citizens from excessive prying.
Once, back in 2006, and out of perverse curiosity, I tried to read Italy’s long and complex privacy laws.
The other day, the subject came up once more when I found myself reading How Do You Say Privacy in Italian? over at James Martin’s Wandering Italy blog. The post demonstrated, in part, that Italians are not really the most private people in the world. Indeed, as mentioned in the article, Italians do their level best to stick as close as possible to one another.
In restaurants, and this is something I have noticed too, when a group of Italians enters, you can just about put money on the fact that they will sit at a table very close by, if not right next to you.
This gregarious behaviour is not really what you would expect from a country with privacy laws that fill texts as thick as Schwarzenegger’s arm. James’ theory as to why Italy has privacy laws is similar to my own, but what I wanted to examine was the odd conflict which arises from the natural extroversion of Italians and the lust for privacy which exists here.
Do Privacy Lovers shout in restaurants and go topless on the beach?
Another aspect of Italian behaviour In restaurants is that they will talk at very high volumes, making it extremely difficult not to overhear what is being said. Nope, this chatting, or rather yelling at each other, is not indicative of a yearning for privacy.
Typical summer behaviour is not indicative of a privacy loving people either. As most people will know, many Italian beaches become one huge seething mass of humanity during Italy’s long summer. The girls will wear the istiest bitsiest bikinis you have every seen, and will often go topless.
OK, the topless thing is certainly not about girls showing who possesses the greatest assets, nope. It’s all about obtaining the most all over tan-line free tan you possibly can. In the weeks just after the hols, Italian girls will wear the skimpiest clothes and the shortest shorts to show off their newly acquired tans.
I’m certainly not complaining, but there is a hint of exhibitionism about it all, which is not what you might expect from the population of a country with virtually draconian privacy laws.
Privacy Lovers do Not Strive to be Seen
Many Italians seem to strive to be noticed. They wear nice clothes, drive flash cars, and hang out in chic joints. Most Italians who have got it, do not shy away from flaunting it.
Then there are the intimate displays of affection which take place in public parks between consenting couples right in front of every tom, dick and mario who happens by. In some other countries, I’m pretty sure couples doing the things Italian boys and girls do in public would probably be arrested for acts of public indecency.
Italians are simply not private people. Period.
This raises the question as to just why a country with an overtly extrovert population requires such intricate privacy (pronounced ‘prrreye-vasee’ in Italian) laws.
It has to be said that Italy’s privacy laws do contain valid data protection sections, but many of the cases which make it into the press in Italy reveal the true reason why Italians love their privacy, er, laws. They are not so keen on protecting their privacy, as trying to prevent acts of indiscretion from falling into the wrong hands.
Forthcoming legislation proposed by the Italian government aimed at curbing what is deemed to be excessive use of telephone tapping, which, it is claimed invades people’s, sorry, politicians’, privacy, is an example of Italians conveniently using privacy concerns to get themselves out of several spots of bother.
Extroversion and privacy do not happy bedfellows make
Whereas Italians are a naturally extrovert people, they are also inveterate fiddlers, who hate to be caught in the act. Such acts may include anything from cheating on your wife to setting up dodgy money making schemes with groups of gentlemen of Sicilian origin. All very private acts, but not really acts which privacy laws are designed to protect people from.
Hence, possibly, the complexity of the laws trying to govern this issue. Law makers have to attempt to distinguish between just what consititues a genuinely private act from what does not. The whole privacy issue in Italy is as confusing, and as confused, as its laws.