Re:Do we need more or less privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)
by Corpus_Callosum (617295) on Wednesday January 28, @09:05AM (#8112023)

Editorialists have decried these losses of privacy, as if it were the most sacred of human rights. But just what is the value of privacy? Do we really need it? And, indeed, can we afford it? After all, everything from your son’s shoplifting to the destruction of the towers at the World Trade Center could have been prevented if we had less of an ability to do things in secret.

There are thousands of years of history that show, without exception, that power breeds corruption and abuse. The right to privacy should be considered a counterbalance to power. If those in power obliterate privacy, they do not have to fear the repercussions of their abuse of that power, because they will know where and who may resist them and how they will go about it.

“… God forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

— Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William S. Smith in 1787

What would Thomas Jefferson say to your comment? We actually have a problem in America today; Many Americans have lately fallen victim to the idea that they should sacrifice their privacy and other essential human rights (primarily those that Jefferson was so proud of) so that the Government can more effectively protect them from terrorists and other such nonsense. The only real effect is that the Government constructs much stronger defenses against it’s own people than it had previously.

History has shown that it is significantly more difficult to acquire basic human rights than it is to give them up. History also shows that regardless of the reason for sacrificing them, once sacrificed, they will be exploited for other reasons. These reasons may seem rational at the time, and each new exploitation may be just a small step from the last one. But over time, the civil liberties of a people are chipped away into oblivion with this mindset.

Not only do I disagree with your post, but I believe that because of the growth of information technology combined with our current privacy crisis, America is closing in on an inevitable, new type of rebellion; Today, corporations that manage data and services that are very private to individuals are regulated and controlled with many consequences. One of those consequences is that the Government may tap into the private information flow of it’s citizens, be them voice communications, auto-theft gps services, financial records or whatnot. Eventually, ad-hoc, encrypted networks that contain no Government accessible back-doors will spring up. It is even likely that communities such as Slashdot will be where such movements start, and therfore may one day be considered an enemy of the State.. Interesting thought, huh?

Projects such as freenet [sourceforge.net] represent a blow across the bow of this fight for basic privacy rights. I expect that it will eventually become messy, as frustration at not being able to penetrate these networks sweeps through agencies such as the FBI, NSA, IRS, etc.. The Government will probably even try to make such networks illegal at some point and it could take years or decades before the basic rights to privacy return to our lives. But equilibrium will eventually be restored and we will have the ability to be untrackable, have private untappable conversations, perform monetary transactions in private, read whatever literature we wish without fear of being monitored and discuss in public settings whatever topics we wish without worrying about being branded a “word omitted so that I do not go on a government watch list”…

That last bit was 1 part joke and 1 part truth. Everyone knows that there are certain topics that you cannot express your First Ammendment rights on, online. If you do, you risk being watched, harassed, perhaps even detained without legal representation… I’m pretty sure they don’t even do that in Russia these days.

I don’t want our buildings bombed anymore than the next guy. But I would rather live in fear of a few fanatics than my own Government. We should be very ashamed of giving up our privacy.