Is There Privacy?
In a recent post, Chance of Dying in Georgia Increased, one person left this comment:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
— Benjamin Franklin
They that can give up essential privacy to obtain a little temporary convenience deserve neither privacy nor convenience.
— Dan Geer
Last time I picked up a biography on Ben Franklin it was clear that Ol’ Ben led anything but a private life. And have you Googled Dan Geer recently? His whole career is splashed across the Internet. Not exactly a fierce defender of his own privacy.
None of us are. We don’t live in the mountains and walk around with paper bags on our heads for anonymity. We are social creatures, seeking to connect and relate with other people. Whether we wake up in the morning intending to be social – or public – or not is not the issue. Our lives are public.
I’ve heard some privacy folks claim that our consensual surrender of privacy through the ages was acceptable and natural, but the growth of the Internet and the storage and archiving of personal data is unnatural, unacceptable, and degrades society. Why? Because of the magnitude I suppose. Personal information in the 1950’s or 1450’s had less commercial value than it does today.
But I think the condition is the same – the rules are just changed. Being private today, as in 1950, means being "relatively" private. In the 50’s it meant that everyone in my community, church, town, office knew just about all of my personal business. Today it means that some databases and a few interested individuals know some financial and personal matters about me – and some urban surveillance cameras may watch me drive to the post office or to the Greenpeace office or to the NRA meeting. How is that fundamentally different than the 1950’s? Heck, it actually sounds better! Gee whiz, in the 1950’s the entire nation was absorbed in the private lives of politicians, actors, poets and other suspected closet communists. Every age has shown that privacy and liberty are relative to the whims of society.
In 1999, Scott McNealy said "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."
But I say, you have all the privacy in the world.