1997-06-13 - Re: FUCK YOU: There’s no general right to privacy – get over it, from Netly

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From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
To: Ray Arachelian <sunder@brainlink.com>
Message Hash: 4afee1370f3d3eb0991dfe8dc1690db36e85b723fffbe78cd04d170d696d6316
Message ID: <Pine.GSO.3.95.970613082215.27747P-100000@well.com>
Reply To: <Pine.SUN.3.96.970613110728.23715B-100000@beast.brainlink.com>
UTC Datetime: 1997-06-13 15:56:30 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 23:56:30 +0800

Raw message

From: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 23:56:30 +0800
To: Ray Arachelian <sunder@brainlink.com>
Subject: Re: FUCK YOU: There's no general right to privacy -- get over it, from Netly
In-Reply-To: <Pine.SUN.3.96.970613110728.23715B-100000@beast.brainlink.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.95.970613082215.27747P-100000@well.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Oh, and at least read the whole article.

   Privacy? What Privacy?

   by Declan McCullagh   June 12, 1997
        I have a confession to make: Unlike many of my civil libertarian
   colleagues, I believe you have no general right to privacy online.
   Sure, you have the right to protect your personal data, but you
   shouldn't be able to stop someone else from passing along that
   information if you let it leave your computer. That's your
        So you can imagine my dismay when I learned I'd be sitting
   through four full days of Federal Trade Commission hearings this week
   on Internet privacy. The commission's goal? To define "privacy rights"
   for the Net -- and to be perhaps the first federal agency to regulate
   it. The commissioners are being spurred on by consumer groups that
   want the government to bar firms from collecting information about
   your online wanderings. Businesses say that such a rule would stifle
   Internet advertising and commerce and have recently released a flurry
   of self-regulatory proposals.
        "At what point do we trigger some concern?" FTC Commissioner
   Christine Varney asked on Tuesday, the first day of the hearing. "Is
   there any circumstance under which access to the information that
   exists should be restricted?"
        Evan Hendricks from Privacy Times responded: "We see there's a
   huge problem developing with personal information over the Internet."
   EPIC's Marc Rotenberg added later: "We are selling information today
   that 10 years ago would not be bought and sold. The law has not kept
   up with these developments."
        Yet this misses the point. Protecting your personal privacy
   online is your responsibility. Turn off cookies. Don't give out your
   home address. Educate your children. Use the Anonymizer. Stay away
   from web sites you don't trust. You, not the federal government,
   should make these decisions.
        Which is one reason why I think there is no general right to
   privacy -- at least as the consumer groups and privacy advocates
   describe it. Rotenberg likes to say "Privacy is not an absolute right,
   but a fundamental right." But in truth, privacy is not a right but a
   preference: Some people want more of it than others.
        Of course there's an essential right to privacy from the
   government. (Beware government databases: Nazis used census data in
   Germany and Holland to track down and eliminate undesirables.) You
   also have a right to privacy from Peeping Toms.
        But -- no matter how much big-government fetishists want this to
   be true -- you don't own information about yourself. After all,
   journalists are able to investigate someone's private life and publish
   an article -- even if it contains embarrassing personal details. This
   is a good thing: Any restrictions would weaken the First Amendment.
   Then there's gossip, which is a time-honored way of trading in others'
   personal information. "The reindeer-herding Lapps, for whom theft of
   livestock is easy and common, gossip about who has stolen which animal
   and where they are," sociologist Sally Engle Merry writes.
        "Fencing off information behind a newly-created wall of 'privacy
   rights' has obvious free speech implications," says Solveig Bernstein,
   a lawyer at the Cato Institute. "The government has no business
   telling private firms whether they can share information about events
   and people."
        Fortunately, you have some options. Say you walk into Radio Shack
   and that teenager behind the counter wants your home address. You have
   three choices: Convince the guy he doesn't need it, ask the government
   to force him not to require it -- or leave.
        Yes, leave. The same with a virtual storefront on a web site. If
   you don't like what information it records about you, or you're unsure
   about its privacy policies, take your browser elsewhere. Vote with
   your mouse button.
        New technologies will make this easy. Yesterday at the FTC
   hearing the Electronic Frontier Foundation unveiled TRUSTe, which is a
   privacy rating system for web sites where three types of icons
   indicate what a web site does with your personal information. Firms
   display the appropriate icon and agree to spot checks and audits to
   ensure they comply.
        "We're trying to foster honesty, not regulation. We're trying to
   foster the ability of the consumer to make a choice," EFF chairman
   Esther Dyson said. "If companies find people don't want to do business
   with them because of free exchange, they'll offer that option."
        That's exactly right, and that's why TRUSTe is such a good idea.
   Unlike FTC regulations that end at national borders, TRUSTe's icons
   can appear on overseas sites and foster electronic commerce globally.
        Indeed, most Americans prefer nongovernmental solutions. A Lou
   Harris survey announced yesterday said 70 percent of the public
   believes the private sector, not the feds, should take the lead in
   protecting privacy online. "By 2 to 1 the responses say business is
   more likely to be trusted to do good in this area," says pollster
   Stanley Greenberg. "When asked about a privacy commission that would
   take a regulatory approach, two thirds were against such a measure."
        But somehow, I doubt the FTC will take the hint.   *