Home > Identity Theft > Is There Privacy?

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.

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Categories: Identity Theft
  1. February 23, 2007 at 6:27 am

    What I don’t know about privacy

    A post on Steve Hunt’s blog has me thinking about privacy again. A couple of years ago, I was speaking on an international identity and security panel in Rome. At the end of my remarks, a French journalist asked me

  2. February 23, 2007 at 9:07 am

    What I don’t know about privacy

    A post on Steve Hunt’s blog has me thinking about privacy again. A couple of years ago, I was speaking on an international identity and security panel in Rome. At the end of my remarks, a French journalist asked me

  3. Dan Geer
    February 23, 2007 at 9:43 am

    I was alerted to this by someone who reads blogs with a robot.
    I doubt you want a full tilt debate, though that is on offer, but you confuse secrecy for privacy. Privacy is something given to the individual by others of sound mind, and is given up by the individual by volition. Secrecy is something taken by the individual and, like privacy, once lost is irrecoverable.
    Privacy is the right to be left alone — the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. Our globalization is making us a tribe again, but without the benefit of knowing the tribe members or having sanction against them at a level that matters.
    Since you mention that I am all over the Internet, that is true, but not my doing. On par with John Adams’ “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and Philosophy,” I study privacy and security. As you invoke Scott McNealy in 1999, here is a speech of mine from precisely the same era, courtesy of John Young, a fierce champion of privacy, http://jya.com/privacy-dg.htm.
    Good day,
    Dan Geer

  4. February 23, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Steve,
    The TrackBack url doesn’t seem to be working. Either way, my own muddle-headed response is here:
    http://www.vastlyimportant.com/vastly/2007/02/what_i_dont_kno.html

  5. Morgan Warstler
    February 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Ayn Rand’s right but but Dan’s a little left – I’m hoping he misunderstood – and isn’t doing it on purpose.
    His own thinking starts here: “Our globalization is making us a tribe again, but without the benefit of knowing the tribe members or having sanction against them at a level that matters.”
    Huh? Sanction? He sounds like he believes in government.
    Globalization as in the WEB – thats “for privacy,” as in – it ends government or sanction.
    There is no NEED or WANT for being “private” / “secret” IF there are no teeth. No sanction.
    The point of the quote is freedom from sanction = privacy.
    We are not being made a tribe, becuase we aren’t suffering the sanction of the group.
    If we are only suffering the sanction of individuals who find us on the web – that is privacy.
    The point is – in the toothless, no public sanction world, those that seek secrecy – even when they have privacy (no teeth) – they probably have something to hide, and individuals should rightly (only as individuals) wonder why there is nothing on someone out there.

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