Re: The End of Privacy ?

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 29 Jun 1998 19:25:03 -0400 wrote:
> In a message dated 98-06-27 12:31:52 EDT, you write:
> << you are in fact being constantly
> > tracked by a large and pervasive computer system under the control of a
> > large and pervasive organization. So what? >>
> So what?... You can't possibly be serious, and if you are, don't count on my
> vote if you ever run for office. I don't mean for this to sound snotty, Dan,
> but think about what you just wrote. I don't go around commiting crimes left
> and right, but that doesn't mean I want some officious snot of a beaurocrat
> poking his/her/its nose into where I go or what I buy or who I speak to
> anytime they happen to have an urge.
> And the sad fact is that both individuals and gov'ts have demonstrated that if
> they are given the ability to snoop and use info for private gain, they will
> do so.
> Cori

I reccommed that you read "the Transparent Society" (1998), by david Brin. Actually,
you may prefer to read "Earth"(1990), also by Brin, instead, since it's a science
fiction book that incorporates ideas from the other scolarly work.

Basically, Brin states the obvious: the technology of surviellence is advancing
exponentially, and we can't stop it. This means that government, and just about
anybody else with enough money, can find out just about anything they want to
about what an individual does in public. Brin's solution to the problem is
simply to agree that all actions in public places are public, and give access
to the scanners to anybody at all who wants it.

By now, you are probably objecting to this violently as a gross invasion of privacy.
I don't like the consequences either, but I agree with the premise and I cannot
think of a viable alternative that is better. How do you propose to stop an
observer, government or private? by force of law? How? do you propose to make it
illegal for me to hook up a web camera in my car that runs continuously? or carry
a web camera with me all the time? remember, I'm a private citizen, not a policeman.

If you do intend to make it illegal, I must assume that you feel that law enforcement
is a valid concept and that government is necessary. If you to not intend to make it
illegal, you must enforce the law yourself or through a collective. But you will
be attempting to enforce a law against dissemenation of information that I acquired
in a public place. This is ethically unreasonable and technically very difficult.

Brin sympathsizes with and shares our desire for privacy. Both he and I agree that
privacy is desirable. It's just becoming incresingly less feasible. Please don't respond
that "privacy is good, we must must keep it." Instead, please describe an approach to
ensuring privacy that may work.

Brin's solution is to say that since we can't protect our privacy from the government and
other wealthy organizations and individuals, then the government and others should not
have privacy either. This is what is meant by "so what?" When everybody's public activities
are reviewable by everybody else, the range of acceptable activity will get a lot