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[liberationtech] FW: The security and ethics

P.A.Bernal at P.A.Bernal at
Wed Feb 9 09:26:00 PST 2011

Jacob, I'm certainly not advocating that we don't aim for understanding the world 'as it is' - but sometimes you need to teach someone to drive rather than how to design and build their own car, let alone the physics behind the internal combustion engine. There's a balance to be found - and as you say, creating a space in which we can find that balance is the key.

What I was really looking for was a solution for the situation as it often is on the ground, as described by a few posters on here, where people have little time and lots of demands upon that little time, and who would like to find good solutions to their problems but who don't have the expertise to find their way through the technical language and literature.

Paul Bernal

-----Original Message-----
From: liberationtech-bounces at on behalf of Jacob Appelbaum
Sent: Wed 2/9/2011 4:23 PM
To: liberationtech at
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] FW: The security and ethics
On 02/09/2011 06:54 AM, P.A.Bernal at wrote:
> Agreed - though privacy by design doesn't really go nearly far enough
> both in theory and in practice.... and in practice, of course, it's
> much more often 'surveillance by design' than privacy by design.
> That's what needs to be opposed, together with the laws that seem to
> support or even demand it.

I agree. Surveillance by design is the normal behavior - it's both
easier and well tested as far as most implementors are concerned.

I think privacy by design is a great buzz-phrase. Ultimately for a
discussion that critiques either advice or tools, it's probably not
possible to just toss around buzz-words or buzz-phrases

> For the purposes of this mailing list, though, there is a point I'd
> like to make from a lay-person's perspective: the technical language
> (not just the acronyms) that surrounds privacy is often highly
> confusing even to people with quite a lot of technical knowledge.
> What that means in practice is that people often just give up on it,
> particularly if they're short on time and have other highly pressing
> issues to deal with, as they generally do. Is there a way that this
> can be avoided? Often, of course, the level of technicality is
> unavoidable, but it would be great to try to cut through it at least
> to a degree.

I find this interesting on a few levels.

If we asked this of people about basic literacy or mathematics, we'd be
pretty embarrassed. Rather than asking people to read to us or for us,
we learn to read. Rather than asking someone to balance our checkbook,
we learn to do it ourselves. This is a sub-goal of most educational
programs. Obviously the main goal is an understanding of actual
mathematics and literary challenges; learning about these topics is not
just about functionally balancing a checkbook.

To that end, computers and networks are an important part of our lives.
Indeed, I think this is such a difficult topic precisely because a lack
of knowledge or a lack of technical knowledge may be physically
dangerous to people in the field. I don't want to exclude people from
the discussion, rather I think we should seek to normalize the knowledge
and embrace it when possible.

To that end, I think that while we should try to make the language
accessible but we must not forget that the details do really matter.

Additionally, just as literary illiteracy and innumeracy are serious
education problems, so is technological illiteracy. So while I agree we
should be accessible, I reject the notion that the ideal is to not
understand the way that the world works. We reject it for other
important topics and we should reject it here too. We should embrace
understanding for this very important topic; most people actually get
the big picture and most of the little details when they stop
discouraging themselves.

If that means that people are going to give up on a discussion, I
suppose that we should simply hope they're not calling the shots for
other people who are less hopeless. There is little to do for people who
simply and silently give up.

However, as a practical manner - I would prefer to encourage people to
help create a safe space. As my friend Ingy would say: "Hands need
holding; if you only live in the future, it's a future nobody will ever
see" and I tend to agree. There absolutely needs to be a desire on both
sides to make this happen. It would be great to know when to define the
technical language and when to break down the barriers; creating a safe
space is key to greater understanding all around.

All the best,
liberationtech mailing list
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