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The Privacy Illusion 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-have-your-very-own-database-entry dept.
LoLobey writes "Scott Adams has an entertaining entry on his Dilbert Blog about the perception of privacy. He writes, 'It has come to my attention that many of my readers in the United States believe they have the right to privacy because of something in the Constitution. That is an unsupportable view. A more accurate view is that the government divides the details of your life into two categories: 1. Stuff they don't care about. 2. Stuff they can find out if they have a reason.' His post is written in response to some reader comments on another entry about privacy guardians and how swell life would be if we voluntarily gave up certain personal info."
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The Privacy Illusion

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  • by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @04:19AM (#41904915) Journal
    is freedom and to be let alone, to live without fear. That is what is scary about a government that knows (or can if it wants to) every detail down to what color rash you had when you were in college. But Scott Adams is right, nobody has such a right, but it's something that is worth fighting for nonetheless.
    • by zoloto (586738) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:07AM (#41905201)
      That whole part about items not enumerated were left to the people or states also includes privacy. I wish the government would mind it's own fucking business.
      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @10:56AM (#41907489)
        I'd also point out that we have the rights we say we have. It's not like the right to life, liberty, and property/pursuit of hapiness is handed down by nature. Nature would allow trillions of things to deprive you of life, doesn't give a fuck about your liberty, has no concept of property, and has designed your brain to make hapiness fleeting.

        Rights as they are defined in the constitution were people agreeing that those rights were a good idea. I think most people would agree that we have a right to privacy today. They would have agreed to it back when the constitution was being drafted were it a question. But it probably wouldn't occur to them that 200 years later, it would be so easy to see nearly everything that everyone does.

        I wonder what rights we enjoy as a default today that will come into question due to technology in the next 200 years. Rights not to have your consciousness electronically amalgamated into a collective mind? Maybe we should put an amendment to that effect into place now. The Borg were pretty creepy.
        • OK, based on what you wrote I propose following formulation:

          Everybody has a right not to participate in some "progress". All progress needs to be done only with those people, and only to those people, who agree to it.

          So, if you do NOT want a cell phone, nobody will force you to use it. If you do NOT to be a borg, nobody will force you to become part of it. Plus, for the borg case: to maintain the social contract, others will try to protect you in cases when borg will try to integrate you against your will

      • by Americano (920576) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @01:01PM (#41909077)

        The problem is, enforcing the laws on the books is its fucking business.

        Adams has a good point - there's 2 categories the government lumps your information into: stuff it doesn't care about, and stuff that it can find out if it has a reason. If it has a legitimate subpoena, it can get almost any information it wants to about you, and legal "fishing expeditions" are not that hard to mount.

        So why not decriminalize all the stupid "victimless / harmless" crimes, get them off the books, and let the police agencies ACTUALLY go after the real criminals? They'll always going to have the power to subpoena your information if they have reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime, no matter how much you stomp your feet and shout about privacy. Furthermore, it's not ALL that hard for the government to manufacture "reasonable suspicion" if they're really looking for a reason to nail you.

        So instead of worrying about "privacy" (which is at the mercy of the government's lack of interest in you to begin with), limit the circumstances that would give them an excuse to start pawing through your personal information in the first place. They will always be able to violate your privacy - so limit the circumstances where they legitimately have that power.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:22AM (#41905273)

      is freedom and to be let alone, to live without fear

      I'm sorry, but you're only half right.

      half this country wants to dictate to the other half how to live.

      no, you are wrong; 'people' mostly want to control each other. its only the rare person that has a live-and-let-live attitude.

      I wish you were right, though.

      • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @09:38AM (#41906673) Homepage Journal

        Now we're into the right realm...

        I don't try to dictate how others live, and I with for the same from them - that they don't dictate how I live.

        OTOH, some regulation is necessary, because we all live on this planet together. Your right to pollute air and water indiscriminately stops at my nose, mouth, and generally the rest of my body. Kind of like your right to swing your fist stops at my face.

        I also believe that society has a general responsibility to protect children - the future of that society. But what you want to do with another consenting adult is none of my business. I don't particularly like the idea of gay marriage - so I'm not going to do it. But I also believe that that's your business.

        As for "voluntarily give up certain personal info," the key word in that phrase is "voluntarily." As long as *I* get to choose to give up - or retain - that information, I'm find with that. If giving up some information improves my life, I may choose to do so. I'm a bit of a privacy bug, but I also recognize that I'm one of those "boring people," and if anything, my "privacy hobby" raises my profile some.

        • by Draknor (745036)

          As for "voluntarily give up certain personal info," the key word in that phrase is "voluntarily." As long as *I* get to choose to give up - or retain - that information, I'm find with that. If giving up some information improves my life, I may choose to do so.

          What happens when giving up that information becomes the default cultural norm, and so choosing NOT to do becomes an inconvenience or barrier?

          Really simple example - do you have health insurance? If you do, then there is a large insurance company out

          • by dpilot (134227)

            > What happens when giving up that information becomes the default cultural norm, and so
            > choosing NOT to do becomes an inconvenience or barrier?

            Certainly a valid issue - really yet another Tragedy of the Commons. Almost as applicable as a car analogy.

            > Really simple example - do you have health insurance? If you do, then there is a large insurance
            > company out there that has your entire medical record. You gave up your right to medical privacy
            > (between just you & your doctor) when you

      • "The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from the highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they make more comfortable neighbors than the first sort."

        -- Robert A. Heinlein

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:23AM (#41905279)

      Frankly, at least government can be held accountable in democracy.

      Good luck with the corporations though. And unlike governments, corporations don't have to take care of people either.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:28AM (#41905553) Homepage

        Please try to pay more attention ... the corporations are the government.

      • I don't understand where corporations aren't accountable. People stop buying their products. I've never had a corporation force me to buy anything. Government, on the other hand, not only forces me to buy stuff, it forces me to buy stuff I can't use.
        • by Draknor (745036)

          Depends on how you define "accountable".
          The only two corporations I don't have a direct competitive choice are the power company & the water company (although both are very heavily regulated by the local government).

          But to the GP's point, you ARE paying corporations, just doing it via your tax dollars. Your taxes are paying agricultural corporations via farm subsidies, oil companies via fossil fuels subsidies, automotive company bailouts, etc. So maybe you aren't choosing to purchase fuel at Exxon-Mobi

      • by chihowa (366380)

        Frankly, at least government can be held accountable in democracy.

        Good luck with the corporations though. And unlike governments, corporations don't have to take care of people either.

        Corporations are designed to avoid accountability. Legally, they exist to stop the owners and officers from personally feeling the (negative) financial consequences of their actions. Structurally, they're set up so that no one person, or group of people, have to take the blame for malicious actions.

        If the malicious action happens to be illegal, it's possible to go after the people responsible, but most likely the company gets a pitiful fine and all is forgiven.

        So it's no accident that corporations can't be

    • I would argue that there is a right to privacy, and that it exists regardless of whether it is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. As a justification, I point to the Ninth Amendment, which states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." A right does not need to be in the Constitution to be had. No rights are granted. Rather, the Constitution states that rights already existing may not be infringed.
      • I would argue that there is a right to privacy, and that it exists regardless of whether it is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. As a justification, I point to the Ninth Amendment, which states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." A right does not need to be in the Constitution to be had. No rights are granted. Rather, the Constitution states that rights already existing may not be infringed.

        I don't know why people forget the Fourth Amendment when they talk about privacy and the Constitution:

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...

        Surely your computer and your personal information are the modern equivalents of "papers and effects" as the founding fathers saw it? Although referring to government powers, and not explicitly about what corporations might be able to do, (since the found

        • I don't know why people forget the Fourth Amendment when they talk about privacy and the Constitution:

          The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...

          Maybe because even the Supreme Court doesn't see the 4th Amendment as conferring a general "right to privacy," and had to pull "penumbras" out of their Constitutionally educated asses: Griswold v. Connecticut [wikipedia.org].

          Although referring to government powers, and not explicitly about what corporations might be able to do, (since the founding fathers could never have envisioned what the world would become), the very idea of a right to privacy is implicit in the Fourth Amendment.

          (1) Implicit, not explicit. There you go. (Hence, "penumbras.")

          (2) Yeah, the Founding Fathers could never have envisioned globe-spanning megacorps [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But Scott Adams is right, nobody has such a right, but it's something that is worth fighting for nonetheless.

      And thus you've basically affirmed the issues that the Federalists had over the Bill of Rights that at some point in the future idiots like you would claim that if it's not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights that the right doesn't exist. You, Scott Adams and the Supreme Court are all wrong on this issue.

      • by chihowa (366380)

        But Scott Adams is right, nobody has such a right, but it's something that is worth fighting for nonetheless.

        And thus you've basically affirmed the issues that the Federalists had over the Bill of Rights that at some point in the future idiots like you would claim that if it's not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights that the right doesn't exist. You, Scott Adams and the Supreme Court are all wrong on this issue.

        I agree, but do you really think things would be better if we didn't have a Bill of Rights? If anything, the Bill of Rights limited the damage that has been done.

        The absence of a Bill of Rights would be the equivalent of only having the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Since those were disregarded almost immediately, we'd have nothing positively affirming the first eight and it would be assumed that we had no rights at all except what the government decides we have.

    • You don't get that many places. Conservative governemnts want to tell you to live your life the conservative way (things like, who you can sleep with, drinking laws etc), socialists want you to live your life the socialist way (things like, what you're allowed to do with your own money, the state will only engage with groups not individuals, one size fits all, etc).

      Very few places have liberal governments who want you to be left alone to live your life *your* way, whatever that might be.

    • I disagree with Scott Adams on the idea that the US Government could go Nazi- I think we saw the first stages just last night. Having said that, I don't see any way to avoid such a government using all means at it's disposal to invade your privacy- and I don't see any way TO fight this- other than to lie as much as you can to anybody asking you questions.

    • But Scott Adams is right, nobody has such a right, but it's something that is worth fighting for nonetheless.

      That might be true for the U.S.. German citiziens do have such a right, labeled "Informationelle Selbstbestimmung" ("Informational self-determination"), by our Bundesverfassungsgericht (German "SCOTUS").

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Scott Adams is wrong then. The Fourth Amendment doesn't use the word "privacy", but it expounds on it.

    • Apparently Scott Adams is fond of censoring blog posts with which he does not agree, no matter how factual they may be.

      I have visited the blog page a number of times today, and he has censored nearly all of them that were made today. They were there, now they're not.

      Smooth move, Scott. That was sarcasm, if you could not tell. I guess I'll stick with XKCD rather than Dilbert from now on.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @04:21AM (#41904933)

    At the heart of the Constitution is the notion that the powers are government are derived from the people. That is to say, the government can only do what the people consent to allowing it to do. The document makes various references to this principle, some direct, others inferred. The Declaration of Independence was quite a bit more blunt on the topic. That said, the truth is... we're not all equal. Some people have more influence than others. Others have more money. And while we are afforded the right to vote, it's almost always voting who will represent us. We have no significant control over our government; Which was deliberate. The same people who said powers not expressly enumerated in the Constitution are reserved for the people also wrote in the so-called elasticity clause and created the electoral college.

    So when people say there's no right to privacy in the Constitution, they're right and they're wrong... as is the other camp. The truth is, human rights are not derived from any legal instrument. They have always flowed from the same source -- a willingness to fight against their removal.

    • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:17AM (#41905241)

      The electoral college was created primarily because there's no requirement that states allow their citizens to vote for president. And in fact that was the common case in the early union -- electoral college delegates were often chosen by state legislatures. It wasn't an attempt to redirect power away from the electorate, it was an attempt to redirect power away from the federal government, insofar as states were all free to make their own choices about how to select a president.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @11:12AM (#41907693) Journal
        Someone (or some group) has to pick the candidates at some point before it's possible for everyone else to vote. I have lived all my life under the Westminster system and figure the US electoral college thing is similar to what we would call a "caucus meeting". However I recently caught a 20 second soundbite from an American commentator. She said that while there are mathematical problems relating to the "fairness" of the election method, one of the GoodThings(TM) about it was that it would be near impossible for anyone to become POTUS without pleasing the majority of the states. This ensures that the president must at least have a significant level of approval across the very different sub-cultures that exist in the US. I don't know how much truth there is to that statement but it does ring true to my non-native ear. I'm old enough to realise that what little I was taught in the 60's about the US was about as real as the John Wayne movies (that I still enjoy). They didn't escape religious persecution they brought it with them and due to the lack of a uniting vision continued the practice with a great deal of enthusiasm. What the founding fathers did was pretty much what the Romans did with the Bible, they provided a vague and lofty common purpose and a simple list of agreed "commandments" in a surprisingly long-lived and successful attempt to restrain the worst excesses of human nature that surrounded them.

        One thing I do know is that all geeks should go out of their way to read "science and the founding fathers", science was far more significant to their politics than Ben Franklin's lucky escape from a kite flying incident. ;)
        • by dywolf (2673597)

          Except you're wrong.
          It is possible to win the electoral college with ~24.5% of the popular vote.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wC42HgLA4k&feature=plcp [youtube.com]

          Unlikely? Maybe. But the mere fact it's a possibility means the EC has outlived itsusefulness, especially since it's purpose no longer exists thanks to modern technology. If we are to retain the (horribly horribly flawed) simple majority system then the EC has got to go.

    • by rumith (983060) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:23AM (#41906065)

      Human rights are not derived from any legal instrument. They have always flowed from the same source -- a willingness to fight against their removal.

      A most precise and excellently worded observation. My hat off to you.

  • the constitution (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The first block of ammendments to the US constitution called the Bill of Rights is just an enumeration of the more abused natural human rights in the time of the US Revolutionary War until it's passage.
    The Bill of Rights was mostly opposed at the time by those who feared that unenumerated natural rights would later be denied.
    Privacy is a natural human right that must be defended by the courts and populace even if it didn't end up in the rights sampler called the Bill of Rights.
    The US constitution only enume

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @04:57AM (#41905129)

    While somewhat off-topic it puzzles me why these questions about privacy deal mainly with the government abuse of power (in the US at least). Living in a "socialist" country in the Northern Europe I can honestly say that I feel the government is protecting my privacy against companies and other private entities that might try to abuse this information about me rather than it being the big threat. While certainly not perfect or run by perfect people at least in theory the government represents the people for the people and is regulated by the people themselves while the private entities serve only the interests of a few and are in fact required to try to "maximize the profits for their owners" and thus to abuse their power to the full extent they can within the law (or slightly outside, which they can try to influence).

    I am aware of the differences in the history, the fact that government used to be about the only entity with enough resources (but would claim this is not even close to being the case now) nor am I saying the government should be given free hands to do whatever.

    But there seems to be such a difference in the standard mindset I would be interested in hearing some explanation for this.

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:32AM (#41905321)

      Spiegel had a very good series of articles on different forms of governance, their strengths and weaknesses. Here is a link to part 4 (China) and you can find links to introduction as well as parts 1-3 (Brazil, US, Denmark) in the preamble of the article:
      http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/putting-the-plan-into-action-how-china-s-leaders-steer-a-massive-nation-a-843593.html [spiegel.de]

    • by neyla (2455118) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:21AM (#41905521)

      This is indeed a blind spot in USA. Many, perhaps even most, see government as fundamentally opposed to their interests, while giving corporations a free pass - despite the fact that government atleast in principle represents the interests of the people while corporations represents the interests of the owners. (which are a tiny fraction of the people)

      Google and Facebook knows more about our private lives than the government does, yet this seems to bother nobody. It's true that you can opt out of those - but it's also true that network-effects make social media a natural monopoly.

      • by martas (1439879) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:23AM (#41905817)
        I think often there is very good reason to be more afraid of a powerful government than a powerful corporation. The government is the one with the power to put you in jail, kill you, take away everything you own, etc. Also government is often driven not by predictable profit-seeking motives, but more "irrational" fanaticism. True, in some cases corporations can also take things from you, but usually they have the power to do so through, or because of, the government (the cops are the ones who force you out of your foreclosed house, not bankers). Of course there's a flipside also -- too weak a government can't protect you from private entities directly fucking with you.
        • by neyla (2455118)

          That is true.

          But it's also true that while the government *can* kill you, they're fairly *unlikely* to.

          Meanwhile Facebook *can* use all the information you give them for their own personal profit -- and they're *very* likely to do precisely that.

      • Because I can easily opt out of not giving my data to Facebook or Google. If I feel that Microsoft has abused my privacy, I can switch to Apple, or to Linux. If Amazon sells my personal information, I can buy from Barnes and Noble or my local bookstore. It's (usually) an entirely voluntary relationship.

        My relationship with the federal government is not voluntary. When Congress passes a law I don't agree with, I can't take my business elsewhere without moving to a different country. I'm stuck with it. It's a

        • by neyla (2455118)

          Yeah I know that in principle dealing with corporations is voluntarily, and this *does* make a difference. But in a world where infrastructure is increasingly privatized and monopolized, doing so has high social and practical costs.

          Let's say I don't want VISA anywhere in my finances. I'm not aware of -any- Norwegian bank whose debit-cards aren't also visa-cards, quite possibly it'd thus mean foregoing paying with plastic alltogether, and foregoing ATMs too, in favor of withdrawing money in the actual bank,

    • Europe is indeed very active when it comes to protect your privacy against 3rd parties. But they are still (part of) the big threat: they'd like to know anyhing and everything about you if they can get their hands on it, and it has been shown repeatedly that government cannot be trusted with our private info, both because they misuse the info, and because they are very poor custodians of the data they gather.

      By the way, Scott Adams repeatedly mentions what data government could procure "upon presenting a
    • Governments posses the authority to use force to compel people to do their bidding while corporations mostly don't try to force you to do anything. When corporations _do_ try to force you to do something, they employ government to do it for them. When one person has a gun and has demonstrated a willingness to use that gun to compel people to do their bidding while another has a whole bunch of money, I fear the guy with the gun more than the guy with the money.

      Even simpler answer: during the 20th century g

  • by TwineLogic (1679802) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:02AM (#41905159)
    Scott Adams compares our loss of privacy to the domestication of dogs. That is unsupportable nonsense.

    According to Wikipedia, the current lineage of domesticated dogs diverged approximately 15,000 years ago. Our current American situation of lost privacy depends greatly on the electronic digital computer, which is around 75 years old. Therefore, Scott Adams was exaggerating by a factor of 200, and - more relevant - a difference of 14,925 years.

    The pervasive surveillance society, including facial recognition and the networking of ubiquitous video cameras, is being implemented at present. Today is much more recent than 15,000 years ago -- 15,000 years more recent, in fact.

    By suggesting that a national debate on our right to privacy is somehow not timely, and implying that we should instead accept that we have never had privacy, Scott Adams has deeply disappointed me. I really thought he was more intelligent than this, because his cartoon routinely makes fun of certain types of people for their stupidity. I figured that meant he was smart.

    The appropriate time to have a national conversation about our rights to privacy and to be "secure in our persons" is now. Today.
  • by AvderTheTerrible (1960234) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:04AM (#41905173)
    What I hate about these articles that say there is no right to privacy in the Constitution is that they completely forget about the existence of the Ninth Amendment:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    What that amendment means is that "just because we did not list that right here, does not mean it does not exist as a right. There are many rights we did not list here, and this amendment is intended to protect them as well as those we did list already". And yes, it is very broad. It is supposed to be broad because it is supposed to be a check on government power and a protection of the publics general rights. The Tenth Amendment is written along a similar line. Both are intended to say "any power or right we did not explicitly give to the federal government, we give to the people and the states". They are supposed to be very very broad because they are supposed to have a very broad interpretation in order to protect personal freedom and the autonomy of the states. And I think a right to privacy easily passes the test for inclusion under the Ninth Amendment.

    I disagree with anyone who says that the Constitution contains no right to privacy. It contains one, by virtue of the Ninth Amendment, by not explicitly denying it.
    • Not to mention that the Fourth Amendment is about privacy.

      The governing Supreme Court precedent at the moment is that there's a right to privacy.

  • by Vintermann (400722) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:06AM (#41905195) Homepage

    Scott Adams is trolling. Not for the first time.

    Something he doesn't seem to worry about is that government (or large organizations) have a lot more power than ever to process information "they don't care about", to get information that they do. And use it.

    For instance, by itself, it's very uninteresting for government to know that I read Dilbert. But if it knows of my Dilbert reading habits, it can correlate that information with other things about me. Maybe they can even draw causal inferences, like that people tend to change their political attitudes ever so slightly after reading Dilbert for years. With enough data and processing power, that's feasible.

    The government can then decide to do something about Scott Adams. Not murder him, that's overkill. But maybe give him some personal problems, so that he becomes less influential. Or manipulating his attitudes, so that his role as an opinion-shaper becomes more to their liking. Again, with enough data and processing power, they can probably figure out an effective, non-violent way of changing Adams' behavior.

    This wouldn't be cost-effective, you may say. I say it might well be. Influencing a lot of people ever so slightly is really a very powerful thing to be able to. Most governments though history would have leaped at the opportunity to have this level of control, in a non-intrusive manner - compared to the clumsy heavyhandedness of harassment and ruling through fear, it's both less risky and potentially more profitable (given enough data and processing power).

    I think it's not feasible to keep processing power and data out of the government/big organizations' hands. Data is just too flightly - if it doesn't actually want to be free, at least it's very hard to contain. But we can get this flightly quality of information to work for us, rather than against us, by demanding radical transparency, and taking it if we don't get it (see Wikileaks).

  • As a foreigner... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stolpskott (2422670) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:07AM (#41905473)

    ...who has never read the US Constitution (something I have in common with probably 99% of US citizens), and whose primary knowledge of the Consitutional amendments extends only to the 18th and 21st Amendments, and the 5th amendment because I used to watch so many US lawyer shows (Perry Mason, LA Law, Ally I cannot comment on what, if any, privacy protections are given to the public in those documents - I suspect nothing explicit is included (, and further I suspect that any implied protections are based on individual interpretation of the wording.

    From my perspective, the biggest issue is not that Law Enforcement agencies can conduct surveillance and gather information on citizens, but that that the checks and balances to allow investigation while preventing authoritarian abuses (i.e. the need to apply for a Judicial warrant before engaging in said surveillance beyond certain well-defined boundaries) have been eroded to the point where there seems to be no judicial oversight and no ability for the public to scrutinise the process after the fact.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Depending on who you ask, courts have effectively bypassed either half or all of the articles of the bill of rights. Judicial oversight only works when they intend to act in that capacity.

  • I really like Scott Adams - but you should always take in account that he is a cartoonist. Even if he's trying to be objective, he's still using a lot of hybris and he'll always describe things in an awkward way. That's what makes him great at his job. I don't say he isn't basically right, he's just a bit drastic in his analogies.
  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:07AM (#41905749)

    there is no express Right to Privacy in the US Constitution. Period.

    HOWEVER...

    Ninth Amendment states:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Tenth Amendment states:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Government is strictly limited to doing those activities which are specifically authorized to it by the Constitution.

    Everything else is left to “the States, respectively, or to the People.“

    Constitutionally, the specific right to privacy does not exist. It is a privilege granted by local Statute. Data Protection Act, wiretapping restrictions, US Postal Service regulations and limitations, the Copyright Act and the Federal Reserve Act are but a few examples of Statutes that bestow privilege on certain types and methods of information, but for that information only - nothing in there even about personal privacy.

    All that said, there is an ancient Anglo-Saxon saying from the time of King Alfred (9th c.), which goes "A man's home is his castle". This is in fact part of the Code of Alfred and about the closest you'll get to an actual Constitutional statement about the absolute right to privacy. Back then, if you even turned up outside the walls of a fort uninvited or unannounced and flying the pennant of an alien House, you stood to be run through, and deservedly so. In England these days we have as closest analogue, section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 which provides for intentional alarm, harassment or distress but still no specific *right* to privacy. People have tried to apply section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in civil Law but this Act only applies against Public Authorities, which are immunised from prosecution (civil or criminal) under HRA by section 71 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which provides complete immunity if said corporate body turns evidence in *any other proceeding*.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)
      Couldn't you make the same exact argument about our right to play World of Warcraft, or our Right to Party (as enumerated in License to Ill, track 7)?
  • I hope those who comment on Scott Adam’s article take note of his caveat, “written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view”. It’s a thinking-out-loud piece, which coming from Scott Adams, I enjoy.

    I think he is wrong on two important points. One, I believe the Constitution does protect privacy, and I do not think Hitler analogies are self-refuting arguments. Hitler analogies are overused and too easy to make, which makes the

    • by AdamWill (604569)

      To me he made a very weak argument and then intentionally misunderstands the commenters who point out the flaws in his argument.

      The U.S. system for dealing with government privacy concerns is like the U.S. government system in general - it's based on checks and balances. Some of them are more 'generally understood' than 'explicitly codified', but even that caveat doesn't apply to many, and he blithely ignores that.

      He simplifies massively when he says 'the government already knows all these things about you'

  • If we had automatic cars, then the whole drink/drug-driving problem would be solved as you wouldn't be driving the car.

  • by mschaffer (97223) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:50AM (#41906267)

    Privacy starts with protection from illegal search.
    It's a shame that it wasn't extended further in the Constitution.

  • by Tokolosh (1256448) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @09:03AM (#41906387)

    "Tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. The robber baron’s cruelty (and) cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- CS Lewis

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @09:57AM (#41906827)
    Because law enforcement has always used its powers on "bad guys" and criminals. Long before Anonymous, the FBI was running RUIN life on people for their own agenda.

    The author insinuates, like most other police states, that everyone suspected by law enforcement is really a criminal, and power is rarely abused.

    for the record the name man trusts catholic nuns to guard his data
    "I would trust nuns to guard my personal information in the cloud. I would also trust nuns to keep the government from getting my information and using it for evil. But I would limit the job to nuns who have been in the habit, so to speak, for at least twenty years"
    http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/guardians_of_privacy/
    Because the church does not evil. I mean they are a church. You must be a communist to think the church is evil.

    Anyone who thinks that living in a police suvailence state, could you please link to another country on earth where it has worked, well, and the police do not abuse their powers? Link to biased outside media if you could.

    But if you want to know what a police force, conducting secrect survaillence on US citizens looks like, you can google "Church Comittee"
    https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Church_Committee_Created.htm
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Committee

    Then there is "COINTELPRO"
    https://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=les%3B&gs_nf=3&tok=gukAibuebXq64nmwN-zOUw&pq=church%20committee&cp=6&gs_id=h4&xhr=t&q=COINTELpro&pf=p&safe=off&tbo=d&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&oq=COINTE&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=5339a8ff113dcf96&bpcl=37643589&biw=1108&bih=647
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO
    http://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro

    What we will have is that federal law enforcement will use their powers to undermine our democratic values by eliminating dissent/otherwise giving an unfair advantage to political canidates they agree with.

    Anyone who comes accross damning evidences or otherwise criticizes the system, if not arrested, the FBI would have enough dirt that it could leak and destroy people's reputation. It could send neighbors against people, get people fired. Harrass spouses, friends, girlfriends.

    You see the "things the FBI doesn't care about", changes when they want to single you out and make an extra-judicial example out of you. As Mario Savio, of the Berkley Free Speech movement.

    And if you think that "congresstional oversight" is a magic bullet, when it just gives potentially unscrupulous members of congress something else to keep them in office.

    Then we get to this:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/terrorist-plots-helped-along-by-the-fbi.html?pagewanted=all

    How long has the FBI been doing things like this before they got caught? This is a mainstream paper that in more modern times doesn't generally like to dig further than they need to. Good investigators like the FBI don't routinely get caught by half assed ametures link pro-journalists.
  • What happens when the government doesn't have the privacy? They say "oh no, we need the privacy that we deny you"

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/11/minneapolis-police-pushing-for-more-license-plate-data-privacy/ [arstechnica.com]

    If we shouldn't have privacy from governmnt because "oh who cares it's boring", then neither should any police, fire, rescue vehicle, or any politician from the public. It is not in the public's interest to make governmnt managers a higher class of citizen who can see all but not be seen.

  • The so-called "right" to privacy, I think, boils down to practicing whatever type of treatment that one would prefer the people around them practice.

    It's quite reasonable to desire some privacy in some matters, even if one has done nothing wrong, and I see privacy as being more a matter of treating those around us with plain old human respect and decency.

    It doesn't make an inalienable right though.... more of a social privilege that we ought to grant eachother because we desire the same privilege for o

  • 1st flaw seems to be the point of the article that since the government has a certain amount of power to look into your private life then you should not care if they have more... So by this logic we should be ok if the government no longer needs warrants to get things hell they can get them now if they have a warrant anyway.
    2nd Flaw "It isn't a real risk to law-abiding citizens" . There is no such thing as a "law-abiding citizen"; You probably broke several laws already today that you don't know about..
  • What about certain corporations that know all about us? Arguably, they know more than the government.
  • The right to privacy might not be explicitly stated in the Constitution, but case law has firmly established that it was implied by things such as the third, fourth, and fifth amendments. See Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), just to name the most significant.

    Most of what is written into the Constitution is explicitly a reaction to a specific abuse the British were engaging in at the time of the American Revolution. Th

  • A teenager cracker, up for a thrill finds that the central server's are guarded by a weak password, have an open port they did not know about. Or exploit a bug that has not been patched yet. Causing millions of dollars in damages by causing cars to careen out of control into obstacles they thought were not there killing hundreds if not thousands in one stroke.

  • Beyond the US Constitution prohibition on unreasonable search, and the 9th and 10th amendments, the concept of legal privacy has developed more in the courtroom than the legislature. Thus, you can't be legally photographed without your permission on a toilet, in a dressing room, or in other places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy; and this is generally the result of an accumulation of numerous court decisions rather than explicit law.
  • When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
    -Thomas Jefferson
  • Mr. Adams says:
    >"The government doesn't know your medical history. "

    Sorry, but this is 100% wrong.

    I have worked in the medical industry for 24 years, and I can tell you that if your payer is Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare, every single diagnosis code of yours is being sent to the government, regardless of where you obtain care. These codes completely describe your exact conditions, what procedures were done, and are combined with lots of other demographic info: name, birth date, address, gender, social

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