To Brin, I Direct this Writing
David Brin, author of (amongst other things) "Glory Season" and, more relevant, "Earth," is what one might call a surveillance utopianist, if such a term might be coined.
He argues (and argues well, I might add) that a world where our expectations of privacy have eroded to the point of total worldwide information transparency, to a degree where secrecy is one of the few true crimes left in the world, would be a good thing. "Earth" is founded, vaguely, on this idea, and although its protagonist seeks secrecy for just reasons, Brin himself gives every indication that he believes privacy to be an anachronism, a legacy of humanity's brutal rise into civilization, and one best left behind.
I do not agree.
Bruce Schneier wrote an article for Wired magazine a short time ago on the value of privacy that I think bears reading. He contends, and I agree, that even the off-the-cuff responses we have to that old saw ("If you're not doing anything wrong, why do you care if someone is watching") are misdirected. Saying "The definition of wrong is in the hands of the government, and it keeps changing," or "If I'm not doing anything wrong, you have no cause to watch me" is an implicit admission that privacy is intended to protect wrong actions.
This is not, and should not, be the case. The right to privacy protects our ability to grow, learn, and change. It protects the essential dignity of a loner who would otherwise fear constant examination by a society he rejects. It forms a fundamental component of interpersonal relations, or should we all feel that we must have sex in full view of the world, lest we be violating someone else's right to examine our every behaviour?
This claim upon the details of my life is specious, and unethical, and must stop.
This claim upon the details of your life is no more right than the claim made by a peeping tom that nobody is hurt if he only looks in through the window.
As Schneier quotes Cardinal Richelieu: "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."
This must not become the way of our free society, lest our society cease to be free.Tweet