Re: The right to privacy.

Ron Resnick (
Fri, 22 Aug 1997 00:29:12 +0300

At 04:06 AM 8/21/97 -0700, I Find Karma wrote:
>Ron said there'd be a quiz on all of these ethics questions we've been
>discussing lately.
> 1. What are morals?
> Um, those paintings on walls...
> 2. What are scruples?
> Um, the Russian currency...
> 3. What is privacy?
> Um...
>Okay, I would do quite miserably on such a test.

C-, maybe a C. 'Um..', it just so happens, is *exactly* the right answer
to the question 'what is privacy?', which is what kept you from getting a D-,
or even an F.

> Rohit, can I just
>steal your answers?

Great artists steal.....

>Since he's feeling quiet for some reason I cannot fathom -- hey Rohit,
>is this some kine of test? -- I feel compelled to point out that Rohit
>uses economic reasoning to resolve questions of morals. Just great,

And he's _a_b_s_o_l_u_t_e_l_y right.
(said with Jeremy Iron's accent as in Lion King.
Undoubtedly Disney's best ever. Better than Snow White, Pinocchio,
even Fantasia - although it comes close. I can watch Lion King over&over
with my kids. Esp. the Jeremy Irons/Scar parts. Has anyone else noticed
that Lion King is 'Hamlet in the jungle'? King, son/heir, jealous brother
of the king covets king's wife & crown, conspires with enemies of the king
to arrange for murder of king & banishment of son/heir, steals crown& wife,
son returns for climactic showdown with uncle, inspired by father/ghost?)

Economic reasoning, at its heart, is the way any body possessing
'will' of some sort does anything. From humbles single-celled animals
to societies of billions, economic reasoning, aka 'you scratch my back,
I'll scratch yours' is the basic force for things happening at all.

>This, says Kevin Kelly in his 1994 book "Out of Control," will be the
>fundamental paradigm shift in computers in the next century: "swarms" of
>computing beasties (more like collective hives than interacting agents)
>whose diversity allow them to tackle a problem as a biomass. (Ron, this
>is the book you should read, BTW.)

This is 'the' book, or 'a' book I should read? 'The' book I've been planning
to read is 'Jughead's Digest'.

I'll make a note, ok?

>Quittner's piece -- "Invasion of Privacy" -- centers around the theme
>that our privacy has been compromised not by an Orwellian Big Brotherly
>blitzkrieg, but bit by bit in Little Brotherly steps (such as, for
>example, when I crosspost a piece of private email Ron sent to me, to
>FoRK :).

He's right, I think. The 'fishbowl' business I've alluded to is exactly this
Little Brotherly business. E.g., it makes no difference ultimately how
good our encryption systems are - encryption works on a channel where
you've chosen to encrypt bits. But once the bits get to their legitimate
destination & get unencrypted, the ability to forward on those bits is
totally out of the original sender's hands. Once leaks are possible,
they are in fact inevitable.

>So here comes the Kelly quote. "We think that privacy is about
>information, but it's not. It's about relationships."
>Back to the web of trust again. Gotcha.

>The way Kelly sees it, there was no privacy in the traditional village
>or small town; everyone knew everyone else's secrets. And that was
>comfortable. I knew about you, and you knew about me. "There was a
>symmetry to the knowledge," he says. "What's gone out of whack is we
>don't know who knows about us anymore. Privacy has become asymmetrical."

So what are he (and you) suggesting? That digital networks create
*inherently* asymmetric privacy? Or rather that the skewed world
of today, where we're partially digitized in dynamic peer relationships,
but still partially locked into old-style tiered systems & paper based
records, is asymmetric. But that as the 'new' model (dynamic peer - ie
the active web) takes hold more and more, and displaces the tiers
& hierarchies, that we gain symmetry and can start to put the
*social* symmetry back in at long last? I hope for the latter, but I really

Maybe rather than trying to make all this web all happen, we should
be doing our damndest to stop it before we get tyrannized by it!
'fcourse, that's like trying to stop the nuclear weapons race or any
other technology- once it's out of the pandora's box, it never, ever
goes back in. The best you can do is try to harness it for good, and
put safeguards against those who would do evil. Good? Evil? What are
*those* :-)??

>or to edit a FoRKpost that's forever been archived in Rohit's
>little beanbox (a real sticking point with me).

See, I don't get this sticking point of yours Adam. I kind of like the idea
of a universal Hansard. Every nuance, every bit, right or wrong, spoken in
or from reason, drunk or sober, trapped. Caught. Frozen. Pickled. Searchable.
Archivable. Part of the historical record. Your corrections can come later.
And they'll get trapped and pickled too. But I think having the original
verbatim of everything is a neat and useful thing. Damned dangerous too,
I admit, but hey, so's driving at 85mph, right?

Think of it: every heated argument you have with some bozo waiting
in line at the checkout as to who got there first - the exact record
of who said what and did what is available, unaltered. No point going
to court on those kinds of 'I said/he said' disputes - the record is
clear, indisputable and in the public archive.

I'm sure you'll give me 1000 reasons why I should retract this whole
scary idea, and probably I will one day.
But I think there's considerable value in an exact historical record,
free of alterations.

>fake unauthorized nude pictures of Terry Hatcher

He he. Got some Adam? I'll trade ya for some Crawford fakes!! He he.

>We've said it before, but let's reaffirm. Ownership, and privacy, are
>fundamentally matters of trust. The foundations of trust -- and, as
>Doug Lea pointed out on dist-obj, economics -- must be constructed for
>us to migrate to that "next level" of computing...

Um, I don't think that's really what Doug said. I'm not sure he'd object
to it, mind you, but he never used the word 'economics' at all, as far
as I'm aware. He was noting the parallels between specification,
quality assurance,
security models and a few other things in software design as all really
boiling down to better ideas of the contract between sw producer & consumer.
Bertrand Meyer's been saying similar things for years, of course.

>Ironically, the thing that people are most hungry for -- meaning --
>is the one thing science hasn't been able to give them.
> -- Contact