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The Naked Truth! or: Big Brother's Wearing No Clothes

Post by Riddick » 06-25-2005 01:14 PM

When Privacy is Outlawed? Only Outlaws will Have Privacy

New surveillance technologies may put us all under glass, but those responsible will have to take the consequences


Excerpts from The blind spot in the panopticon

by Rupert Goodwins

ZDNet UK February 05, 2004, 13:30 BST

Charlie Stross is a writer. You'll have heard of him if you read much about Linux, and you will hear of him if you read science fiction. ...As befits an SF author, Stross spends a lot of time running what-if scenarios through his head.

One particular piece of pondering resulted in an essay, The Panopticon Singularity, where he looked at the current state of various technologies and came to a worrying conclusion: one day, everything we do will be so closely monitored and analysed that no misbehaviour goes unpunished by state machinery devoted to the automatic enforcement of all laws.

This is a logical extension, he says, of a proposal by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham... ( a glass-walled ) panopticon would prevent any misbehaviour, according to Bentham, because nobody commits a crime knowing -- or strongly suspecting -- that they'll be found out.

Stross' 21st-century glass walls are a mixture of the well-known -- cellphones, RFID, digital security cameras -- and the more esoteric, such as terahertz radar.
...
And, since the the realisation by the US and friends that the war against terrorism can be used to put in place loosely defined broad legal powers to grab data, conduct surveillance and generally make full use of all available information, it's hard to argue that these technologies will be used in this way.

As none of us ever lead blameless lives, says Stross, the end result will be to make us all prisoners -- some literally so, but everyone in constant fear of behaving in any way that may be thought of as out of line.
...
Not even the old idea of "They can't jail us all!" will help: with the power to check comes the power to change, and punishments exacted via bank accounts, access rights and state-granted privileges will be as automatic as pay-as-you-earn tax deductions now.

Chilling stuff, and not to be lightly dismissed. But there's a flaw in the analogy, one that may yet save us.

In Bentham's vitreous world, the prison guards are exempted from the regime of universal observation: in Stross' singularity, they're part of the herd.
...
For once it becomes difficult to do anything unremarked, once surveillance is a given rather than an exception, then the logic behind keeping official secrets becomes much harder to defend -- and the practice of keeping them becomes harder, too. The classic "What have you got to hide?" polemic that so often justifies yet another loss of privacy can be turned around: "Why are you keeping those secrets?"

Or "If you believe in open government -- here's the key. Why aren't you using it?".

Cheap, easy to deploy technology doesn't care who's running it, and although the civil service, judiciary and government may try for monopolies on data access, in any society with claims to democracy they cannot deny effective oversight. They try, my goodness how they try, but in the end the contradictions mount up and the questions become unavoidable.

By building the panopticon, therefore, the great bureaucracy of state control would be building a world without fudge, duplicity, secrecy or buck-passing. Such things are as necessary to the bureaucrats as blood is to Count Dracula, and the panopticon as welcome as a greenhouse for garlic.

So the warning signs of singularity aren't that the technologies exist and are used, nor that they are used by those in power to watch those defined as worth watching: it's the refusal to allow the selfsame concepts to be used on those in power -- or even discussed. When that happens, it may be time to disprove that old saying about stones and glass houses.

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Post by Riddick » 03-24-2006 08:36 PM

bump

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Post by Riddick » 12-10-2012 06:40 PM

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Post by Dude111 » 12-11-2012 04:54 AM

A good article riddick!!!!!!!!

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