The Privacy Issue. What are the rules?

Nov 9, 2022 | 0 comments

Oysterville Cemetery

It sometimes appears that we are all about privacy these days.  Every time we turn around it seems we run up against HIPAA laws or laws with other ominous initials like FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, COPPA, and VPPA.  It’s hard to know which covers what and even harder to figure out why they seem so important when everyone somehow has access to whatever they want about us. Or so it seems to me

So I was somewhat surprised at my reaction to a string of FB comments about a gravestone that has been recently placed in the Oysterville Cemetery.  As it happens, the marker belongs to friends of mine, still very much alive and in good health but the questions people were posing (as well as some of the answers) seemed intrusive and a bit out of line.

Drawing by Larry Weathers, c. 1978 from “Oysterville Cemetery Sketches” by Marie Oesting, 1988

“Why?” I asked myself.  “Once your marker goes in the graveyard, privacy issues no longer seem to be the main concern.”  But what if you are still alive and well — what then?  Was I feeling defensive for no reason at all?

Many folks weighed in — some with pertinent information, perhaps, but many with speculations that seemed to border on the rude.  Or was that just because I know them?  And, really, I have no idea of their thinking on the matter.  When we consider the hundreds of thousands of burials there have been throughout history with no markers at all — or perhaps with temporary markers that didn’t last…  what does privacy or posterity or lineage or remembrance really have to do with it?

I guess mine is a very short-sighted view.  I am thankful that my own forebears chose to put whatever information on our family gravestones that they felt was important.  When I go up to the cemetery and linger at the Espy graves, I feel a connection to my past for which I am inordinately thankful.  I can only hope my descendants will feel the same way.


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