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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » Privacy: Time for a Review?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Privacy: Time for a Review?
Ship's Amphibian
# 18096

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While hanging out the washing indoors, I caught the end of a National Press Club Address by Chris Inglis, a former Deputy Director of the NSA. I really only caught a bit, but I will be interested to read his speech when it's published. I'll post it in about 20 hours when I get home from work.

I have been dismissive of privacy rights for maybe half a decade now. My position has been that the internet has rendered privacy incapable of sufficient protection. Big companies like Google have all the information on those who use computers that anybody could wish for. The information has been sold so many times that anybody who wants to know what internet sites I visit, my medical history, my financial situation or indeed my login details on the Ship already has it and can do whatever they like with it.

At work, our privacy is in the hands of our employers already. There are cameras all over the place, our computers are monitored and even out of the office, people are often caught taking short-cuts or being slightly naughty.

In public places, we are always being filmed, if not by Council cameras placed for this purpose then potentially by others with their smart-phones. Our moments of public stupidity can be filmed and posted on the internet before we get home.

My argument has therefore been that if the private sector can store, access and sell all this private and personal information about us, and already has, why do we complain about Government having it? Surely, between the public and private sector it is the public sector who can use this information for the public good. The public sector is the planner of our cities, the builder of our roads, schools and hospitals, the issuer of permits, the check on the overweening power of the profit-chasers.

The liberal argument, put by Mr Inglis this afternoon, is that it is the public sector which has the authority to deny a person's liberty, to confiscate a person's wealth, even to take a person's life. The public sector must therefore be held to a higher standard, both of privacy protection and transparency.

I have always been a sucker for an American man with experience in the service of his Government. This causes me to wish to reconsider my position in the light of his venerable liberal sentiments. At the back of my mind, however, is the knowledge that I was never bourgeois. I was always of the sans-culottes.

So, privacy. Get rid of it?

The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

Posts: 763 | From: Romsey, Vic, AU | Registered: May 2014  |  IP: Logged
Golden Key
# 1468

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No, don't get rid of privacy.

I don't have any scintillating insights at the moment, but these organizations deal with privacy, among other things, and may be useful:

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

Posts: 17364 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 15837

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One could make exactly the same 'council of despair' argument about slavery in the past -- or any other 'normalised' behaviour that in some way objectifies human beings (or any living creature) -- devaluing that person for the sake of expediency, profit, personal convenience, sheer blind prejudice, fear, etc.

The question isn't 'Can they do it?', i.e. collect personal information arbitrarily and irresponsibly, clearly 'they' can, and do. The question is 'Should they be allowed to, what are the acceptable limits, and what ability does the 'person' have to protect themselves?'

In fact there are many technical means to provide substantial 'privacy' online, but many of them are not convenient to 'ordinary', i.e. IT illiterate, people, and certainly not convenient to the profit hungry corporates, and the power hungry (and frightened) politicos and bureaucrats.

Then we come to 'the law', which all too often is about what you can afford rather then a means of ensuring justice is done for the least powerful and most vulnerable.

In the end, do we simply give up, lube up, and bend over as the playthings of the rich and powerful, to do with as they please, when they please? Or, do we take some responsibility for our fate and do what we can to retain dignity, agency, and privacy -- that aspect of being which upholds the fact that I am not another's property, but a 'child of God', and as such of equal value to any greedy CEO, paranoid President, or little Hitler operating the CCTV at the local Council office?

Posts: 331 | From: Washed up in England | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

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Don't get rid of it.

At the very least, having (ineffective) laws to safeguard privacy means you can always say to such creatures, "How very dare you?"

Concede them the legal right to do as they please and we won't even have that much, as we're told to accept it and like it.

Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19855 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
# 15530

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Given the imbalances of power and resources in society, the presence of quite a few authoritarian regimes in the world, the worrisome political trends in many democracies, and the increasing power of multinational corporations that have massive amounts of valuable personal information on millions, if not billions of people with very little enforceable accountability (despite the efforts of some institutions like the EU) across national borders other than that which they impose on themselves - I think that privacy is something we need to defend.

However, I wonder if a technologically advanced large society (ie, not just an isolated commune) could some day be sustainable with no legal rights to privacy and whether or not one would want to live in such a society. I would think in order for such a society to work the innermost workings of government, the military, finance (including offshore banking), and corporations would all need to be just as public the private lives of individuals. The wealthy would have to not be able to effectively buy privacy with lawyers - and the goings on in multi-acre estates, gated communities, and luxury condos would need to be no less public than the goings on in public housing or other low income communities. Perhaps such a society could not function at all unless massive disparities of wealth and privilege were addressed.

Such a society, even if only partially realized, would mean that everyone's sexual and moral hypocrisy was made public and might lead us to have fairer laws. It might also, though, mean that everyone's past misdoings and health issues would be impossible to hide - and laws preventing discrimination based on these would be very difficult to enforce.

Is there something in human nature - or something scientifically identifiable in all or most humans - that makes people need a certain amount of privacy? If so, what kinds of privacy are they and how much is needed to be healthy? What desires for privacy are merely cultural?

Posts: 1485 | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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We certainly need to stop thinking politicians understand it. It’s becoming abundantly clear that politicians don’t understand encryption.

When a politico thinks that a little bit of privacy is enough, they're wrong.

Current stories in my RSS newsfeed include Roomba vacuums which connect to the internet, and because of how they operate, tell whomever likes such data what your house is like inside, coupled with location, can estimate your income, whether you have kids, their ages, among other things.

Why should I care about privacy? Well I don't know about you, but I have at least several deviant thoughts every day. I'll be damned if I want others to know all of them. I am only partly aware of some them myself, and I certainly don't want Googleface Analytics to statistically precognitively predict my lunacy, dangerousness, weirdness, nor to flog me products.

Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

Posts: 10573 | From: Treaty 6 territory in the nonexistant Province of Buffalo, Canada ↄ⃝' | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
# 944

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Privacy, to me, is key to our humanity and sense of well-being.

I fear governments are increasingly using the threat of terrorism (which I see as a fairly small threat to us in the West*) to make further encroaches into our privacy under the pretext of making us safer. I do not buy it.

There is data I generate that no-one has a right to know except certain people and agencies. My health fund knows I was in a mental hospital thrice; my employer has no business knowing unless I reveal it.

I also worry about how our data is used. I do not read the T&Cs on all sites I visit, so I am to blame, but sharing of data across sites and apps is collating a huge amount of information on us. And who knows what the future holds? Anyone remember this?

Losing privacy frightens me. Corporations, and to some extent government, with great amounts of information on me used for purposes I would deem beyond reasonable use, frightens me. And this is the age I am in.

* note I am not saying nothing can or should be done here...but given, iirc, the perpetrators in the recent London attacks were already known to authorities, I wonder why we need to give up more privacy as well as how it will help...happy to be told otherwise

Posts: 7241 | From: Albury, Australia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 14313

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I think it is long since time for the United States to have a constitutional amendment that would define, establish, protect and limit the right to privacy. I think this has been needed, increasingly, since the invention of income tax and telephone books.
Posts: 1462 | From: Illinois, USA | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged
chris stiles
# 12641

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Originally posted by simontoad:

So, privacy. Get rid of it?

The climate we live in isn't some kind of 'natural' consequence of forces beyond our control, it's the product of what we as a society allow and disallow.

The answer is to regulate all data collection and archiving.

Posts: 3606 | From: Berkshire | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged
Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
# 944

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On Chris' regulation...

Interesting long (1hr) video on big data. About 46:30 mins in the expert says we need to get used to the fact that privacy will be gone, and we need to know how to live safely in a post-privacy world. This is as it is very hard to constrain or protect data. Interesting counterpoint to my current view, and views I've read, that we need to protect our privacy.

He brought up the danger, particularly sensitive data, and especially those in areas where, say, homosexuality is illegal or political dissentiation is illegal. When the state knows all, what do we do?

I've just watched the video so I'm still pondering. Will come back to it.

Posts: 7241 | From: Albury, Australia | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 15530

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Would anyone here be willing to live in a society where no one had a right to privacy but no government or corporation could keep any secrets either? It would have to be pretty technologically advanced, have cameras everywhere, and give the tools to access everyone's (and every institution's) data to everyone. So it's a pretty imaginary place. But would anyone be willing to live there?

I hate keeping secrets, and I also hate that people with less money tend to have the worst moments in their life made public as part of an official record (because poorer people are more likely to have these unfortunate moments involve an interaction with police, child protection services, and other agencies of government than wealthier people who manage to keep their meltdowns off any official record that could inhibit their chances in life for years if not permanently. If everyone's dirty laundry was made public, society would have to come to terms with the facts that almost every family has an alcoholic or abuser of other substances, almost every family has a victim or perpetrator of domestic or sexual violence, a lot of teenage mischief is quite terrible really, porn viewers and prostitute customers are everywhere and tax avoidance (ie, legally shuffling your money around so you don't have to pay taxes) is near universal among anyone who can afford to do so.

I like the idea of such a society because I think less privacy would lead to less shame for a person like me. However, for other people it might lead to more shame, especially victims who would feel particularly upset that the most painful parts of their life cannot be kept private.

But is it human nature to be ashamed that other people know that you have been hurt? My hypothetical society would me one where people's values were accustomed to a complete lack of privacy. So any shame that anyone had would be something that is a genetic response to events and not anything cultural. Is a society where the feeling of guilt only arises from having done something legitimately wrong? A society where everyone knows everyone else's wrongdoings so there is less finger pointing and more work done to prevent wrongdoing, stop wrongdoers from repeating their offenses, and heal the harm done by them?

This society probably sounds like a nightmare to most people, and it is too unrealistic to ever be more than a thought experiment. Does at least the idea of it have any appeal, though, to anyone else?

Posts: 1485 | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged

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