“Why is it being collected? Because it’s technically possible”
i love that “why is it being collected? because they can” fair enough…
And that, friends, is what real patriotism looks like
You should read David Brin’s “The Transparent Society” - while it’s a bit dated (~1997), and a bit over-optimistic about our ability to get organized and influence government policy, one of his main points is that technology makes universal surveillance cheaper at roughly Moore’s Law speeds.
The only real balance we’re going to get is by convincing government to let the public watch them also, or by having the public widely carry recording tools (which happened, not as part of a deliberate civil liberties campaign but because iPhones are shiny and because including cameras in phones lets carriers sell more data service.)
I didn’t go to TrustyCon this week - it sold out pretty quickly.
It was “interesting” in a half-baked, cornucopian, techno-paradise, liberdelusional, poorly thought out way. Anyone doing a serious reading back then realized the following non-exhaustive list of flaws
- It assumed the ability to spy would be symmetrical. It isn’t.
- It assumed governments would allow equal surveillance of their
activities “just because”. This flies in the face of all of human
- It assumed that some kind of perfectly fair and even-handed
Marketplace of Privacy would magically come into being. To label
this a fantasy is so understated as to be actively misleading
- It assumed that the technology to spy would be distributed evenly.
This isn’t even vaguely real
- It assumed that corporate interests could never influence government
to achieve surveillance asymmetry over regular people. This is
balderdash to put it mildly
- It assumed that the Marketplace of Privacy would work because people
would have enough money to protect their privacy to the degree they
valued it, just like people in poor countries could bribe corporate
polluters if they really cared about their miserable lives.
In short, Brin was so convinced he was the smartest guy in the room that he said a bunch of stupid careless things which are only plausible if you completely take leave of your critical faculties. A lack of privacy is embarrassing to, say, Exxon or the Chamber of Commerce. It is potentially life-destroying to the rest of us. The Libertarians, Randroids, Market Fundamentalists and so on are allergic to strong institutional and regulatory safeguards for the public good and the concerns of the powerless. These things are, nonetheless, necessary to prevent serious harm. Defining good as bad and night as day doesn’t make it so. Framing the debate by saying “It’s impossible. Don’t even try. Don’t even consider the possibility of trying” is cowardly and worse
As a friend put it “You look at America and see Athens. I look at it and see Rome.”
My reply was “Work like hell for Athens and you might get Rome. Aim for Rome and you’ll end up with Mordor”
Brin? Libertarian/Randroid? I think he’d laugh louder about that than I would; he’d probably call himself a sensible liberal, and thinks libertarians are naive and that a Libertopia would immediately get invaded by neighbors. (I’m saying this as a Libertarian.)
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