Re: Brin on Privacy

d.brin (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 02:08:55 -0800

>Sorry to be opaque, let me elaborate. Your basic argument appears to
>be that it is inevitable that "they" will be able to watch "us", but
>that we may be able now to choose whether we watch them. Given your
>assumptions, your anti-privacy answer is obvious -- of course, let us
>watch them. But what if you are dead wrong about your assumptions?
>If it were inevitable that we could not watch them, but open to choice
>whether they could watch us, the obvious choice would be pro-privacy
>-- let them not watch us.
>Given that your assumptions about what is and isn't likely to be up
>for grabs matter this much, you need to give explicit arguments to
>defend these assumptions. I'm not saying you're wrong - just undefended.

Again, please do not call me anti-privacy.

Robin, you have a good grasp of logic, but sometimes need to be forced to
express it well. As you did this second time.

Yes, that is a basic assumption of my argument. I believe it is supported
by history.

No mass government in all of history has known as much about its people as
ours does. And no mass citizenry has ever been as free. The obvious fact
is that there is zero correlation between limiting the governments access
to information and our freedom.

There is an almost direct correlation, on the other hand, between freedom
and our ability to deny government officials secrecy. And that is
precisely why we have pulled off this miracle. Because every time the govt
asked us for more info about us, We in turn notched up our requirements
about how open THEY had to be. It is astonishing how closely these trends
have marched in almost perfect lockstep.

Proof is in the rare exceptions. Almost every time the govt has succeeded
in making something secret, it has proven to be a disaster. In the USSR,
where secrecy was habitual, disasters abounded to a degree they'll be
paying for generations from now.

In fact, Robin, in your second scenario... if it is inevitable that we
cannot watch them... it will not matter an iota whether we are all armed
with PGP. Aristos and bureaucrats will conspire together with impunity,
and eventually crush us. PGP is defeated pretty easily by a battering ram
and armed storm troopers. In your 2nd scenario, this renaissance is over,
and our best option is not to defend it, but to be the first successful