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New at Reason: Can you register at Friendster and still have a "reasonable expectation of privacy"? Julian Sanchez suggests we need new legal categories for privacy.

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  1. Further, much protection from abusive laws has simply been being unenforcable and from people just totally ignoring the damn thing anyway, as with much of Prohibition (even Dr Phil recalls back in the day from childhood when the Sheriff always helped unload airplane delivered shipments of whiskey).

    Included to Prohibition you can have the various drug laws, sodomy laws, and all sorts of similar kinds of crap. Sure, when someone decides to declare lying a crime or declare a satan-free zone, it can be cute; but when they actually have the ability to back their lunacy and intolerance by the powers of the state, shit can turn real ugly.

    Getting total lunatics into the Presidency is pleasantly kind of hard. Getting a lunatic elected governer is less hard. Getting a lunatic elected to anything less than that ain’t quite nearly so hard. And keeping entire countries from engaging in perhaps nothing short of mass delusions, such as with totalizing manias as with Satanic Ritual Abuse, Father-Daughter Incest, etc, seems to be outright impossible. When it happens not only is it a run-away train that can’t seem to be stopped, but even to not join it puts one in the way of it (you are either with us or against us, indeed).

    The protection that has always been available is to simply be able to ignore it, to keep your head down, or to otherwise laugh it off, no matter how insane everyone took to behaving, even extending all the way to lawmakers and the police themselves. But how exactly can you do any of that, when the government is given license to collect and use just about any information they like in any way they like, so long as they can cover it with a few fig leaves. Further, they can just cover it up with claims of national security, regardless of the fact that they are just protection themselves from embarrassment.

    That’s not a recipe for happyness.

  2. The argument that “we already willingly provide so much information to corporate databases, why should we object to the government doing the same thing?” is fundamentally flawed.

    The people in the private sector who compile the databases of the massive portion of our lives in the public domain, differ from the federal government in one particular: they can’t use the databases to compile a list of enemies of the State, or send armed thugs to round up that list for detention.

    Before anyone resorts to the reflexive “tinfoil hat” response, bear in mind that the Japanese-Americans rounded up in early 1942 were identified with “guaranteed confidential” information from the 1940 census. And also bear in mind that the McCarran Internal Security Act provided for preventive detention of “subversives” in the event of a “national emergency.” The same principles hold good in subsequent executive branch martial plans, including Garden Plot and the Readiness ’83 and ’84 exercises pursuant to that plan.

    And also bear in mind that the roundups during Wilson’s Red Scare and FDR’s internment of Japanese were carried out with extremely low-tech means. And imagine how things would have been if the government had had the benefit of biometric technology, traffic light cameras, and an electronic economy in which every damn check or credit card purchase went into a data base in Ft. Meade.

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