Well, as usual, the progressives have the rights and roles of private individuals vs. government exactly backwards, from Kevin Drum:
As I said earlier, I'm on the fence a bit about whether an indiscriminate release of thousands of U.S. embassy cables is useful. After all, governments have a legitimate need for confidential diplomacy. But when I read about WikiLeaks' planned financial expose [release of private emails from a private corporation], I felt no such qualms. A huge release of internal documents from a big bank? Bring it on!
The government and public officials acting in a public capacity have no rights to privacy of their work and work products from the public that employs them (except to the extent that privacy pays some sort of large benefit, which I would define pretty narrowly). While things like the recent Wikileak are certainly damaging to things like sources and foreign relations, I have sympathy for such a mass dump when the government so systematically defaults to too much secrecy and confidentiality for what should be public business, mainly to avoid accountability. The public has the right to know just about whatever the government is doing, in detail.
In the private sector, ordinary citizens have no similar "right to know" the private business of private entities, the only exception being in criminal investigations where there are clear procedures for how confidential private information may be obtained, used, and protected. Had the proposed email dump related to alleged misconduct, I would have been pretty relaxed about it. But the proposed document dump is just voyeurism. One may wish for more accountability processes vis a vis banks, but in a country supposedly still founded on the rule of law, we don't get to invent new ex post facto rules, such as "if your industry pisses off enough Americans, all the material that was previously legally private is retroactively made part of the public domain."
Drum may be gleeful now, but someday he just might be regretful of establishing a precedent for consequence-free theft and publication of private information. Had, for example, the words "big bank" in the paragraph been replaced by, say, "Major newspaper," we would likely see Drum in a major-league freak out, though the New York Times corporation has exactly the same legal status as Citicorp.
Everyone thinks his own information is "different" and somehow on a higher plane than other people's information. Drum likely thinks his communication by email with sources is special, while I would argue release of my confidential internal communication about new service offerings and pricing strategies would be particularly damaging. The way we typically settle this is to say that private is private, and not legally more or less private based on subjective opinions by third parties about the value of the data.