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David Brin on Privacy 365

David Brin is interviewed and provides some strong words on modern conceptions of privacy and why they're off-base. Brin asserts - and argues well - that a land with little privacy is a freer land.
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David Brin on Privacy

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  • A very basic fact... (Score:4, Informative)

    by irony nazi ( 197301 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:58AM (#3006337)
    One cannot forget that the Right to Privacy is not a constitutional right. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that American citizens have a right to privacy.
  • by Amarok.Org ( 514102 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:06AM (#3006369)
    Take a look at Griswold vs. Connecticut, as resolved by the Supreme Court in 1965. The Court ruled that the fourth amendment, as combined with several other factors, does in fact guarantee a basic right to privacy.

    As I have stressed to others in other threads, PLEASE do some research before deciding what rights you do or do not posses. How can you defend your rights if you don't even know what they are?

  • It's a Human Right (Score:3, Informative)

    by bartyboy ( 99076 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:18AM (#3006424)
  • The old arguments (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:21AM (#3006434) Journal
    It is nice to be able to read something that does not drift into the old argument of privacy vs security. refreshing.

    even if he has some "old ideas". some of these are very practical.

    There's a whole shopping list we could ask for. The creation of a true office of the Inspector General of the United States. It doesn't exist. In each department, the inspectors report to the cabinet secretaries that appointed them. It's incestuous, as ridiculous as Enron hiring their accountants to be consultants. Autonomy would help. That's just one example.

    The lightbulb, she goes on, y'know?

  • Re:Nice try (Score:3, Informative)

    by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @09:33AM (#3006479) Homepage
    Most of the repressive regimes throughout history have tried to limit the flow of information, and the only governments that try to hide information on a massive level are repressive regimes. So it's probable that a completely open government would put a lower bound on how oppresive a government could be.

    Also, there need not be a system of ever-increasingly powerful watchers. If that were required, then even our 50% open society would be doomed. One alternative is to have (as we have now) several equal powers which balance each other out. In this way, if one makes decisions which are too extreme, the others can collectively put pressure on the one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:00AM (#3006593)
    what did you think "searches" means?

    That obviously isnt a privacy amendment for two reasons. First, it only applies to law enforcement. Second, it rules on evidence. Just because a certain class of evidence can be suppressed in court doesnt mean your privacy hasnt been violated. The police can still spy on your sex life and even "accidentally" leak their information to A Current Affair.

    There is absolutely no right to privacy under Consitutional or common law. That's what statutory law is for.
  • by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @12:36PM (#3007998)
    A few of the gaping holes in Brin's notion of "surveillance with accountability":
    1. It's simply too easy for the people in power and their minions to walk away scot free even when we
    already know what they've done. I'll be willing to entertain arguments to the contrary when Lon Horiuchi is waiting for his appointment with a guerney and a needle.

    2. Accountability can be easily evaded by hiding behind pretexts. If some politician doesn't like you for a non-actionable reason (e.g. you tried to prevent him from getting re-elected), he can always find an actionable reason (e.g. you once smoked the Devil Weed With Roots In Hell[tm]). This is routinely done now, and would be far easier given the surveillance abilities Brin postulates (and, no, surveillance the other way couldn't catch it, much less prove it, unless it includes mind-reading).

    3. The notion of really wide-open government is simply not possible. Nobody in his right mind is going to allow some "citizen watchdogs" to leaf through genuine national security secrets; thus, there will always be safe harbors for abuse free from prying citizen eyes.

  • by TheWizardOfCheese ( 256968 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @12:36PM (#3008001)
    To them, it's just as harmful for a supermarket to know what salad dressing you bought as it is for a convicted abuser to know the location of the battered wives shelter. But this is obviously absurd.

    Why is this absurd? The point is, if privacy is not valued for it's own sake, it will be taken from you when you really need it. Of course we don't need special rules to protect privacy when even Mrs. Grundy can see that it's needed.

    The Anschluss was approved by an overwhelming majority of Austrian voters. Albert Goering, who did not share the political beliefs of his more famous brother, described how this vote worked to his Allied interogators after the war.

    Voting took place in a large hall. In the centre there was a table, surrounded by seated officials, with ballots and ballot boxes. At the far end of the hall was a privacy booth. One approached the table and was handed a ballot with the Brinesque instruction that if voting "yes" (in favour of unification), there was no need for privacy - you could skip that long lonely walk to the booth. (Amusingly, the "Yes" alternative was printed very large on the ballot, the "No" very small. The Nazis weren't exactly subtle.)

    Goering insisted on using the booth, but of course this was tantamount to an admission that he was voting "no". He could afford to do this because his powerful brother could free him from the clutches of the Gestapo (as happened on more than one occasion.) Most voters didn't have that luxury.

    There was no way to argue the merits of privacy in the particular case, as Brin advocates, without arguing the case itself. If it had been possible to argue for privacy on a principled, rather than particular, basis, more people might have voted "no".
  • by payslee ( 123537 ) <> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @05:04PM (#3009826)
    Could Thoreau have done what he describes in Walden today? Of course not - or at least, not legally. He had no means to pay the property taxes that would be levied on his "house in the woods".

    Wasn't legal then either. Thoreau got tossed in jail for non-payment of taxes and sat there for a while with every intention of using the incident to publice his views on civil disobedience. Then someone paid his taxes for him, and they booted him out of jail. Slightly more info here [].

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger