1993-12-11 - Re: Privacy as a Commodity

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From: Brian Beker <beker@netcom.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 4f496fbafbcf2a0543edcc5c7f814bda85944d17a5c146ab32d61cabfbc1cb68
Message ID: <Pine.3.85.9312111135.A18170-0100000@netcom7>
Reply To: <199312110910.BAA09858@mail.netcom.com>
UTC Datetime: 1993-12-11 21:07:06 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 11 Dec 93 13:07:06 PST

Raw message

From: Brian Beker <beker@netcom.com>
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 93 13:07:06 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Privacy as a Commodity
In-Reply-To: <199312110910.BAA09858@mail.netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.85.9312111135.A18170-0100000@netcom7>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain


> > by Michael E. Marotta <mercury@well.sf.ca.us> 
> > privacy.   Today we say that we live in a global village.  
> > Therefore, the expectation of privacy is inappropriate.  

T.C. May wrote:

> Huh? I don't see how this conclusion follows. Historical examples of
> villages with extreme privacy abound. 

This raises another matter that isn't dealt with here, namely that
historically there has been a grey area between issues of privacy and the
use of shame.  Shame is a powerful societal determinant -- an example of
it is the ostracism faced by any healthy young male who didn't volunteer
during the 'Great' War.  It can raise armies, empower religions, help keep
suddenly noble bloodlines pure and clean.  One-sided use of shame and all
its subtle variants is one of government's most powerful instruments of
opinion control. 

Getting back to the village example discussed above, the Puritan
settlements of early New England help illustrate both sides of the
question.  There, privacy was superceded by a complex shame-based social
system. And though there were many who were apalled at the way their lives
had been entirely subjugated to a powerfully communicated minority view of
what was shameful, that same shame had, and has today, an insidious way of
keeping people quiet and in their places. 

This model may be useful to an understanding of privacy.  What is to stop
anyone from asking, and Cypherpunks deal with this issue every day, what
is an appropriate level of privacy?  When that question is formed on the
basis of "What have you got to hide?" it takes on the aspect of
accusation.  And yet, that is precisely the question posed by our
government as it leads the cheers for the good, right-thinking folk who
know that only the guilty, only the criminally insane could ever feel the 
overwhelming need for absolute privacy. 

There's a parallel between those Puritan villages that figure so
prominently in America's early colonial history and what is happening now
as cyberspace is settled.  Moderns look back at those times and remark on
the amazing ignorance that drove many of the most terrible features of
those societies. 

That ignorance hasn't gone anywhere; it is still with us.  They might be
hard to spot with the buckles off their hats, but the same people who
today want escrowed keys and backdoors into all our lives are the
ideological descendents of the Puritan finger-sharpeners.  If that's true,
then this is a damn good fight. 

And we can be sure of it whenever we hear: 

Cypherpunks, shame on you!

Brian Beker

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