No Orifice Unplumbed

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New at Reason: Brian Doherty has seen the future of privacy.

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  1. In the future, privacy is being a single bit in a vast data dump. Technology has already moved us beyond the point where we are safe from someone who is dedicated to digging up dirt. All that saves us is encryption on the one hand and each of us being a very small data point on the other.

    Privacy protection down the road may involve providing so much data that no one will bother.

  2. that is the one bright spot in this, that all that data requires watchers, who require watchers, who require watchers, etc.

  3. Why haven’t I read more about:
    “…the recent expansion of FBI powers, quietly passed on a voice vote and signed into law by President Bush as a rider to the 2004 intelligence appropriations bill — a bill that, because it involves classified activities, is not subject to public hearings. This sneaky act effectively passed the widely denounced Patriot Act II before anyone noticed.”

    from
    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20040101.html

  4. I think the best plan to combat surveillance is to find the appropriate authorities and tell them everything we do or think on an hourly basis. If the government wants to know my favorite brand of toothpaste, I could send an email straight to somebody. What did I think of the officiating of the latest NFL playoff game? Inform my Senators! Is my phlegm a noxious color? Write the NIH and the CDC! Imagine the fun future government researchers will have once the information becomes public. I just know I wouldn’t want to read Sen. Rick Santorum’s email.

  5. A very interesting article linked from slashdot about the CAPS system:

    http://www.swiss.ai.mit.edu/6805/student-papers/spring02-papers/caps.htm

    MIT academics toss out arguments about privacy, and arguing simply from a technological basis, show that CAPS is flawed and will actually result in _worse_ security.

    Fascinating read, especially given that it came out in May 2002.

  6. Of course it will be worse security. “THEY” want worse security so more terrorist acts will succeed. Which requires more security, less liberty and more government control. and on and on and on.

  7. Jason,

    Those trends mean it will be almost impossible for the total surveillance state to accomplish its stated mission: it will be quite unlikely to notice the emergence of unexpected threats, or to forestall future attacks.

    But as you say, it will be much easier for them to dig up all the dirt they want on people they *already* know they don’t like. Imagine if Woodrow Wilson had all this stuff for enforcing the Sedition Act back during the war hysteria and red scare.

  8. So the bad guys have an even better reason to steal someones identity. Vicitim’s of identity theft will probably never be able to travel by air again.

  9. We are on The Road to Serfdom.

  10. Really liked the piece. However, your criticism of RFID technology is off base. It seems that you are almost conflating a technology adopted by private companies to track inventory with the horrors of a CAPPS II-style tracking program. Certainly, all technologies are subject to abuse, but Wal-Mart, despite what some may say, is not trying to violate our rights or take over the world. We don’t always know what technologies companies are using, but so what? I remember that people freaked out about UPC symbols, some calling them the “Mark of the Beast.” The point is that companies who violate rights are punished by their customers (reputation damage), and often in court, while governments face entirely different incentives. Just Because with RFID “we aren’t making the choice,” doesn’t mean we somehow have a right to. Producers and distributors can’t be expected to ask every customer whether they approve of its inventory tracking device. Customers who are concerned about privacy will seek this information out and bear the cost of privacy themselves.

    Sorry for the rant. It just seems that “1984”-style concerns are better directed at government entities/programs than private enterprise.

    This is not to say that companies, like Delta, should not be boycotted for participating in federal programs that invade privacy.

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