Friday, October 30, 2009

Privacy or a lack thereof

Privacy or a lack thereof

I was reading an entry on The Dilbert Blog, where Scott Adams was talking about the end of privacy. He was making the case that it might be liberating to have all your quirks exposed to the world. Suppose, as in the hypothetical world he proposed, a desire for broccoli were stigmatized. If everyone knew this information about you, you could gravitate toward other broccoli-lovers and find a new community. That sounds nice.

Let's think about that more carefully before we celebrate the loss of privacy and start waiting for our broccoli-fetish club invitations to come rolling in.

It probably wouldn't be too bad until some president, supreme court-jesters, LEOs, or bureaucrats decided it was necessary for "the common good" to kidnap ("arrest"), torture, and kill all the broccoli-lovers. Don't think it wouldn't happen. It would; it always does. Look at all the things from the past that are now demonized and even reasons for punishment. This is a recipe for a "genocide" of those whose tastes can be targeted.

You also need to realize that your neighbors will rationalize their own quirks while magnifying yours until it is imperative that they exorcise you from their midst. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. Yet, if you were already unpopular because you respect the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" of people your neighbors have decided they don't like, or because you painted your house orange with pink and purple polka-dots, any excuse will be sufficient to single you out. If they can hand you over to a government which is willing to do their dirty work for them, it is so much easier and therefore more likely.

This laying open of the secrets has another danger. It limits responses. If the broccoli-lovers happened to have the foresight to arm themselves sufficiently to effectively resist the coming genocide, the government and enemies would know about that as well. Love of broccoli could be a factor in forbidding gun ownership, assuming gun ownership wasn't totally prohibited already.
The danger isn't in the lack of privacy; it is in allowing anyone to have power or "authority" to do something with the information. In other words, it is in having a lack of privacy and allowing government to exist.