Re: Brin on privacy

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 13:53:05 -0600

As I see it, this thread is a fight between two mutually compatible and
obviously true propositions:

1) The amount of freedom is directly proportional to the amount of
information citizens have about government officials.
2) The amount of freedom is inversely proportional to the amount of
information the government officials have about citizens.

The fallacy is that somehow officials and citizens always need to have
the same amount of privacy. Any measures that are claimed to "reduce
privacy" will reduce the privacy of citizens more than the privacy of
officials. Specifically anti-government measures such as FIA may reduce
citizen-to-citizen privacy but will definitely, if they work, reduce
government privacy.

The goal: Make citizen privacy complete and government privacy zero
except for secret weapons and such. Citizen-to-citizen privacy is
always greater than citizen-to-government publicity, since the
government can hire citizens. Citizen-to-citizen privacy must therefore
also be complete.

The obvious solution is to invent a polyencephalographic veridicator and
require all officials to wear one. Better yet, require all officials to
be computers and make the source code freely available.

More practically, cryptography should be legal and all officials should
submit to 24-hour video surveilance with all tapes freely available.
Another advantage of both systems is that being an official will be much
less attractive.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.