Being a privacy nut


Those of us who opposed the TIA and other programs were recently branded as "privacy nuts" for doing so. Hiawatha Bray wrote that it was stupid to quash this sort of research just because it might lead to abuse.

Nonetheless, it is important to understand that this is exactly the role
of the privacy advocate.

Protecting privacy is one of the most difficult tasks in the civil rights
pantheon for several reasons. One is that people are rarely concerned about
privacy invasions until after they have taken place. The consequences of
privacy invasion are often subtle as well, even after the fact. The
simple fact that you know you are being watched alters your behaviour in
subtle ways, causes self-censorship of all sorts of speech and activities.

After all, who acts the same home at dinner with their mother than they
do out on their own at college for the first time away from her eye?

Thus it is important not only that the government not engage in general
surveillance. It must, like Ceasar's wife be _seen_ to not engage in
such activity. Anything that gives the public grounds to fear they
are under surveillance impinges on freedom. Even if the watchers are
well intentioned and well behaved and don't exceed their authority.

But of course, even though they may be well intentioned, countless
evidence shows they do exceed their authority, and not infrequently.

Thus we come to the next princple. That we must not build the
infrastructure of the police state. We must not make it be that the
action needed to have a real police state is to flip a switch or
change a policy. Perhaps the risk that the switch will actually be
flipped is one in 100 in your judgement. To me the cost of such a
state is so high we must not even let that level of risk go by.

Instead, let us always have those who would want a surveillance state
have to do both things -- change the policy and create the infrastructure.
Let us not do the hard work for them.


Hiawatha Bray is a pretty smart guy, and while I agree with him in general that it's somewhat pointless to try to suppress research because of the abuses it might lead to, I think it's *very* appropriate to talk about whether or not the taxpayers should be forced to fund research that the government might use to further abuse taxpayers, and I certainly don't agree with the label "privacy nut" in any respect.

Privacy is over rated. Pppl need to be free to walk around and other ppl need to be free to look at them. It is our right to watch others as they live life. I watch ppl all day from my studio apartment...I have spent much money on high powered binoculars...It would be a waste of money if I couldnt stare at ppl through their windows/on the street.

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