Privacy luddism

Whenever somebody begins a rant with “Who gave X the right to…” I reach for my polemical guns. In this particular case, Sean Copeland at begins badly by asking, “Who gave Google the right to web publish photographs of my backyard so detailed that I can see the details of my landscaping?” He’s “working on a legislative and lobbying strategy to drive action in Washington on this assault on our privacy.”

Does he really not know? The answer is: Because the technology and the imagery is available; because information wants to be free; because it is more equitable to have unfettered access to such information than to have access determined by the ability to pay or governmental fiat; because I’ll buy the high-resolution image of your backyard from a French company and overlay it on Google Earth and publish this to a German forum if I want; because somebody else will provide access to a server that does this for any region, from outside any jurisdiction you care to name, using any arbitrary web platform; because nobody cares about your landscaping, except for the people who do, who will find a way to see it; because the circumvention of whatever measures you propose will cost less in time and effort than the measures you propose.

Matt McIntosh calls Copeland’s stance privacy luddism. What a great term that is. (Via Internet Commentator)

PS You find privacy luddites in the strangest places.

PPS. Should I not post over the next 3 days, it’ll be because this place has no wifi.

3 thoughts on “Privacy luddism”

  1. The more I think about Mr. Copeland’s site, the more I see he has a point, even though I love Google Earth for what it is and the kind of democratization of information it represents. It is already on the brink of becoming personal. The idea you’re floating that because governments and corporations can snoop in our backyards means we’re safer if everyone else can, too, is actually kind of absurd — rather like the NRA’s insistence that the world is safer if everyone has guns. It’s also a very privileged, first-world conceit, as is Copeland’s fear of people seeing what’s on his grill. The reality is, should Google Earth reach its logical conclusion in a decade or so and go live with realtime hi-res video, what kind of privacy would anyone on Earth have? Insurance companies would record every step we took. Every third-world dictatorship currently lacking the time, manpower or technology to pry into the lives of its citizens would suddenly have the most intrusive law-enforcement tool in the history of the world on every cheap PC in every jungle police station.

    Just like an escalation in the firepower and availability of weapons, an escalation in the volume and availability of information that could be used irresponsibly is only a good thing if people can be relied on to use it well. Thus far, the human race has shown neither the inclination nor the imagination to grow morally at the same pace as it grows technologically. For the same reason, then, that we prefer the atomic bomb — if it must exist at all — to remain in the hands of a few, maybe it’s better if people agree to entrust to the fiat of a few wealthy governments (rather than to the fiat of a few billion unanswerable individuals) the keys to their private lives.

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