mon 07 jun 2010 21:54:26 witte de withstraat
more thoughts on the end of privacy
i was just thinking about this again a few minutes ago ...
when people complain about loss of privacy, they're really worried about how others will abuse knowledge of them.
to me, privacy per se is about not wanting to be in public when you use the toilet, stuff like that. unlike a lot of people in this country, i like to close my curtains at night, so i don't have to think about how the world outside sees me. i also don't like being photographed while i'm eating, cuz that's when i look at my worst.
but those are preferences, wishes, nothing more. in real day to day society, we dynamically form agreements to try and respect the wishes of people we care about. the trouble arises when we don't care enough.
people today are more vulnerable than ever to the misuse of their info to slander them, steal from them, coerce them or otherwise control their behavior.
the fear of that abuse makes people start to confuse privacy with secrecy. they begin to think they have a god-given right to keep secrets, to restrict what others know about them. and they feel that this right is being trampled by governments and other criminals.
meanwhile, it turns out secrecy is doomed. look around: keeping secrets is patently a lost cause.
but guess what: that's not the problem.
the problem isn't that people can abuse their knowledge of you. the problem is that they do abuse it. the problem is the abuse itself, the bad behavior, not the possibility of it.
people don't want governments to know everything about them, because they know governments are going to do bad things with that knowledge. they don't want criminals to know their bank passwords, because they know the criminals will take their money. the danger isn't what people know about each other. the danger is what they do to each other. that they don't care enough. that they are not good enough.
secrecy, even if it were possible, is not the cure. in fact it makes things worse, by breeding more mistrust.
what we need, same as ever, is for people to get better.