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[liberationtech] It's about time we publicly declared privacy was never dead.

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Sat Nov 2 16:06:03 PDT 2013

I've been having a gloves-off geek fight with David Brin on G+ over the
whole Transparent Society/"Privacy is Dead" bit.

It's not beating a dead horse.  This is, IMO, a harmful memetic bit that is
at this point poison in the well on the commons, and in a post-Snowden
reality, being fed to people like Soma to de-ruffle their feathers.  (Is
that enough mixed metaphors?)

Some time ago, I decided that if I saw David puff up one more time about
TS, I was going to point out that his father (we both dote on our social
reforming dads) would have found it impossible to operate in the future he
envisions.  Well, a Mother Jones blogger posted a rather ill-formed blog
entry on "privacy is dead," David reposted it, and I took it as a sign from
St Thomas More (patron saint of debate, and see where it got him! :).
Brin's thread:
My thread:

Christopher Camp came up with an interesting proposal in my thread, which

And this gets to a more fundamental issue, that, as a matter of liberty and
human rights, it seems to me that people should have the option - not just
a theoretical option, but an affordable, useable, accessible option - of
keeping almost anything they like private to whatever degree they choose.

David's thinking here mirrors that of many others - Eric Schmidt, Zuck, and
many others who extoll the 'privacy is dead' meme. But I've long struggled
with this, not just because I think privacy is essential to a humane
existence (and some form of symmetrical privacy at that), but that it's an
overreach in terms of the our understanding of the universe. There's
nothing, as far as we know, that says transparency must win the day.
Assange offers the counterpoint that the "universe believes in encryption."
But certainly it's far too early to take a stand on the issue of whether
the universe favors one or the other. And these statements also ignore the
normative question of what balance is optimal? achievable?

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit but I do think that the time has come to mount a
concerted effort against this line of thinking. Privacy is NOT dead. It's
still a choice (though, even for heads of state, not as much of a choice as
it should be).

So, in conclusion, I propose a few things: (1) writing a more formal piece,
or series, on this subject, (2) a debate between the key parties on each
side, (3) perhaps a physical meeting, a convention on the future of privacy
and transparency. But I do think, post-snowden, that it's time to have some
sort of meeting in order to lay down some fundamental principles that key
actors can agree on. A coordinated effort to come to consensus on basic
rights, goals and a game plan for achieving them.

I think this is a dandy notion (except the formal parts ;) and thought
folks here might have some ideas about this.  I'd love to see it in a more
popular venue than an academic conference.  Do people have thoughts about

I would like to get something much more of a privacy rights smackdown to
the point where people on the street were talking about this stuff in the
same way they would talk about any pop culture issue, but perhaps with a
few more brain cells engaged.

Sort of on the lines of the net neutrality or SOPA/PIPA issues and all
that, at the least.  But something nicely memetic and viral, showing how
this is an issue that has been foisted on folks in the interest of the
large corporations, to exploit a cultural change that leads to profit,
disengagement, and disaffection.  And general vulnerability to the
surveillance state.

And detailing the whole eco-structure of public hysteria over disasters, to
security theater, to congressional hearings, to the IC/DHS needing every
bit of data, to the erosion of our rights, and so on -- back to our
apparent public demand to have safety from terrorism be lower than their
risk of fatal injury from a sofabed.  Because ultimately, that's part of
why the NSA gathers all this data, too, is to have it ready when they get
called on the carpet by whatever party isn't in power when the Boston
Marathon or Benghazi gets hit.  And to some extent, that's within the
public's power to modulate. (Yeah, I know, good luck, eh?)

From, uh, one side of the question?   If we must triangulate (pardon the


Shava Nerad
shava23 at
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