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Privacy in an age of publicity
June 17, 2013 5:15 PM   Subscribe

The Secret History of Privacy. "Something creepy happened when mystery became secular, secrecy became a technology, and privacy became a right..." [Via]
posted by homunculus (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Disraeli said that he would be only too happy to hand over his mail to the Home Office: “They may open all my letters, provided they answer them.”

While I disagree with his political orientation, Disraeli gets the most style points for any politician, ever.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:27 PM on June 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Privacy will be considered the Phrenology of the 21st century.
posted by sammyo at 5:27 PM on June 17, 2013


This Ray Wang article about trading privacy for convenience is apropo. Via Bruce Schneier
posted by sneebler at 5:37 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Privacy will be considered the Phrenology of the 21st century.

It's amazing how many people will blithely toss off lines about how expecting to not be violated is naivete.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:52 PM on June 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


Trust in government will be considered the Phrenology of the 21st century. (hey! that's fun!)
posted by el io at 5:53 PM on June 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this is a more apt comparison.
I have sometimes wondered whether the word "privacy" will sound to our grandchildren the way the word "honor" sounds to us.

"There was a time when people thought this was a real thing with immense value, which, once lost, was lost forever, and so they would go to incredible lengths to preserve it. People were weird back then."
posted by escabeche at 3:08 PM on March 4, 2012

posted by fings at 6:03 PM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Phrenology will be the basis for all witty discussions in the coming months!
posted by Benway at 6:05 PM on June 17, 2013


If I can be arrested in secret and face a secret trial, then why can't I keep my DUI arrest secret?

(actually I have no DUI arrest, but the arrest-records websites make DUI's some of the harshest publicity a person can face, even if found innocent.)
posted by surplus at 6:33 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Rise of the Surveillance State (As Predicted in 1967)
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on June 17, 2013


Privacy will be considered the Phrenology of the 21st century.

Could you post your last power bill and the reason for your most recent visit to the doctor? I'll also need your movements for the next few days. And a photo of the contents of your pockets. Cheers.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:30 PM on June 17, 2013


But isn't the real issue the fact that nobody HAS TO ask you anymore for your last power bill, the reason for your most recent doctor visit or your movements for the next few days (if you keep a phone in your pocket)? Even a photo of the contents of your pockets can be automatically uploaded to the cloud if a new enough smartphone is among them.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:42 PM on June 17, 2013


Equiveillance is one possible solution to the loss of privacy.
posted by ryoshu at 8:53 PM on June 17, 2013


The Real War on Reality
posted by homunculus at 9:07 PM on June 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


Any word on that asteroid? No? Shit. I don't know if I've got it in me to grind out another 37 years of outrage.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:04 PM on June 17, 2013


Homunculus, that link really deserves it's own (fleshed out) FPP, and I can't favorite it enough.

The irony that the intelligence establishment in service to business interests essentially inherited and ran with the Post Modernist project is too deep to fathom.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:30 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


digitalprimate, I agree, and please be my guest if you'd like to post it. I can't post again until tomorrow night, and I prefer not to do two related posts one right after the other.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 AM on June 18, 2013


1. Just because a lot of people are careless when it comes to protecting their own privacy, the idea or primacy of a right to privacy is not invalidated.

2. The Fourth Amendment is ALL ABOUT the right to personal privacy. Arguments to the contrary are nothing more than noise, IMO.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:17 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Fourth Amendment is ALL ABOUT the right to personal privacy. Arguments to the contrary are nothing more than noise, IMO.

If you go to the Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy entry on Human Rights and search on privacy you will find two instances. Both include the modifier hypothetical. It is possible to interpret the 4th ammendment (I most certainly would not) more permissively and say that it is ALL ABOUT being free from the hassle of having government agents going through your stuff and using up your precious time and energy. And by implication if they can search you electronically and hassle free it's no biggie.

I don't think it's noise because I think there are fucking louts who work for the government who think exactly like that. And the only way to fight them ultimately will be exposing what kind of porn they like, what kind of drugs they take, what kind of stupid shit they said and did when they were drunk, how ugly they look on bad hair days, &c.
posted by bukvich at 5:33 AM on June 18, 2013


The Fourth Amendment doesn't say that the government is NEVER entitled to your information. It just says that it has to have a well-defined reason and that a basic protocol must be followed. (Other parts of the document also point to most of this information ending up public in court, as well.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:39 AM on June 18, 2013


1. Just because a lot of people are careless when it comes to protecting their own privacy, the idea or primacy of a right to privacy is not invalidated.

^This.
posted by sneebler at 7:34 AM on June 18, 2013


The Fourth Amendment doesn't say that the government is NEVER entitled to your information. It just says that it has to have a well-defined reason and that a basic protocol must be followed. (Other parts of the document also point to most of this information ending up public in court, as well.)
It's a bit more encompassing then that:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]
So, things like a "general warrant" for something is supposed to be banned, warrants are supposed to target specific people. But what FISA court has been doing has been issuing warrants for things like "ALL THE PHONE RECORDS" from Verizon - those are specific things (all the data) from specific 'persons' (Verizon). Technically these are 'business records' that the government feels it's entitled too.

____

Also, I've been hearing a lot of creepy arguments from people saying things like "Hey, we give all our data to google/facebook/etc so why shouldn't we be OK with the government getting that data?" Some people will even say it's kind of creepy that we do but obviously no one cares, because they keep handing it over.

Bill Keller's article NYT Op-Ed Living with the Surveiillance State makes that point:
And then there is the Internet. We seem pretty much at peace, verging on complacent, about the exploitation of our data for commercial, medical and scientific purposes — as trivial as the advertising algorithm that pitches us camping gear because we searched the Web for wilderness travel, as valuable as the digital record-sharing that makes sure all our doctors know what meds we’re on.

...

The danger, it seems to me, is not surveillance per se. We have already decided, most of us, that life on the grid entails a certain amount of intrusion. Nor is the danger secrecy, which, as Posner notes, “is ubiquitous in a range of uncontroversial settings,” a promise the government makes to protect “taxpayers, inventors, whistle-blowers, informers, hospital patients, foreign diplomats, entrepreneurs, contractors, data suppliers and many others.”
The thing is, there's nothing about the internet that intrinsically makes it privacy violating, it's just that major companies happen to have built their products in a way that lets them get at it. Something like Facebook could be built using public key encryption to keep posts secret from everyone but the people you want to see them.

When it comes to GPS mapping on your phone, there's no technological reason why it needs to report back your location to Google or anyone else, people sold stand-alone GPS nav units that didn't even have outbound radios. The same software could be put on a cellphone (It would obviously still need to know what cell tower you were near)

The vast majority of internet services could be built in an encrypted, secure way. (Simple searching would be difficult to keep private, it could be done if you kept a copy of a web index on your own hard drive, but that would be overkill for most people)

Building products this way would be more expensive to build, and probably be less profitable as well - so there's a collective action problem. If enough people were willing to actually pay for private versions of these systems it could easily be done.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 AM on June 18, 2013


This is the part in the New Yorker piece which jumps out at me:

As the legal scholar Amy Gajda has shown, nearly sixty articles of gossip about the Warren-Bayard family appeared in newspapers between 1882 and 1890—including front-page stories, two weeks apart, about the funerals of Mrs. Warren’s mother and sister. Warren was infuriated.

Warren is one of the authors, along with Brandeis, of the Right to Privacy Harvard Law Review article.

It seems to have been formulated as a reaction to gossip journalism intrusion more than government data collection. Grinding it out with constitutional court actions might not change anything. What might change things is real live sympathetic characters getting burned badly.
posted by bukvich at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The history of NSA spying, from telegrams to email
posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on June 18, 2013


Secrets piling up faster than government can declassify some
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


on privacy and publicity
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This Is What It Feels Like to Pass Through A Singularity
posted by homunculus at 6:24 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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