Re: privacy/openness

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Fri Jul 20 2001 - 10:01:11 MDT

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > On Wed, Jul 11, 2001 at 07:47:38PM -0400, Mike Lorrey wrote:
> > > It is a subset of self ownership, the most basic of all rights.
> The problem with this is that most people use the word "privacy"
> to mean far more than self-ownership; they want to claim ownership
> of ideas in OTHER minds as well. If no one agrees with or is
> interested in anything else regarding "openness", at the very
> least we must clearly recognize the objectively different things
> called "privacy", and stop lumping them together as if they were
> the same.
> Unlike some "transparency" advocates, I totally support the right
> to keep secrets. What's in your head is absolutely yours, and you
> have every right to do with it as you please, give it away, or
> keep it locked up. But I utterly reject any claim you have to
> control what _I_ can and can't do with information in _my_ head,
> even if that information happens to be about you. As I said in
> my talk, I would never sacrifice freedom for security, but telling
> someone else what to do with information in his own head sacrifices
> HIS freedom for a sense of security that might not even be real.

If we are going to be so discriminating, we need to discriminate by the
circumstances underwhich you came to know information about me, by what
relationship of confidence and trust was involved, and individuals must
consistently behave in a manner consistent with that trust.

For example, selling web server information about me to anybody while at
the same time resisting on 'confidential relationship' grounds against
law enforcement obtaining the same information is logically

Similarly, a doctor refusing to provide health care information to, say,
a minor patient's parents, while at the same time providing that
information to sundry government agencies and insurance and drug
companies is similarly inconsistent.

If you advertise a privacy policy, there should be legal remedies to its
inconsistent application, arbitrary adjustment, or outright abrogation,
that those who the information is about have a right to pursue with
meaningful consequences if the violator is found guilty.

One method of dealing with this is to implement actual trust/reputation
brokers that are functional and deal with privacy much as credit
agencies deal with financial responsibility, and lobby the DMA to
require that its members post up-to-the-minute trust ratings on their
privacy policy page.

> I cannot demand freedom for myself without granting it to others; I
> cannot demand freedom to speak without allowing those with whom I
> disagree to spout their own drivel; and I cannot demand the freedom
> to use every piece of knowledge I have to better my life without
> granting others the same freedom.

Again, it depends upon what circumstances that information was acquired.
I could similarly claim that other people's right to life interfers with
my right to use my guns in every way possible, but that doesn't have
moral consistency. Similarly, the demand to 'the freedom to use every
piece of knowledge I have to better my life' falls under a similar moral
inconsistency without circumstantial covenants that are negotiable or
standardized between parties.

> You happen to know what I look like, what I've written about,
> what part of the country I live in, and many other things. If you
> can profit from that knowledge, more power to you. Most such
> knowledge won't be of any use to anyone, so protecting it is a
> waste of time, but if I didn't want such knowledge to be used, I
> would spend my own money to ensure that they didn't get it. Even
> further than that, I happen to think doing so is a waste of time
> and so I should benefit financially from the fact that I don't
> care who knows what about me, while more paranoid persons waste
> time and money hiding.

Yet imagine that I made your views on secrecy known to individuals and
groups that depend totally on secrecy to do their vry profitable jobs:
intelligence agents, mafioso, and other assorted criminals, and showed
them a picture of you and gave them your address, in exchange for a
small fee for providing that information. I have thus put your life at
risk for money, which I don't think was your intention in letting me
obtain that information about you.

What responsibility did I have, in obtaining that information about you,
to hold it in some level of confidency from those who might seek to use
it to your detriment? Freedom is not without responsibility, Lee, which
I think is the primary thing that transparency advocates overlook, it is
the means of self regulation that allows high freedom, high trust
societies to even exist.

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