Decide for yourself…

November 13, 2007

Day Two

What do we mean by privacy?

Don’t know?

Apparently we better hurry up and decide. It seems that the US Principal Deputy Director of Intelligence has decided for us and we don’t actually have privacy anymore we just have the right for governments and companies not to disclose or tell others what they have learned (link here).  Is this right, do we want others to decide what is in our best interests? In some cases yes in others no. Is this a fundamental choice about a human right (and it is a human right in most countries) is being made by a government agency> Is this the first of many? we have all heard or voter apathy, a fire needs to be lit. Do we want the government or large corporate that wants to know everything about everyone or everything deciding for us? Ecological diversity of thought is needed to discuss and debate any as deep-seated as this.



6 Responses to “Decide for yourself…”

  1. Eddie Southcote-Want Says:

    2. the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs: the right to privacy. (

    I think the main issue here is can anyone expect privacy ina medium that is, esentially, public.

    Once ‘private’ information has been handed off to a third party e.g. your ISP, and then forwarded into the ether I would suggest that the sender has a certain amount of responsibility in safe-guarding their private communications.

    However, just because this ‘private’ information is in a public domain does this necessarily give anyone else the right to view it?

    IO could sort of understand searching the ‘public’ area for certain words or groups of words and, if it is felt a threat may exist, then examine that particular message in more depth. I would still argue that this does not give an authority carte blanche to view everything.

    Of course, it could work in the other direction where Joe Public has the same right to view ALL of an authorities communications that are in the public.

    Over to you guys 😉

  2. paulslewis66 Says:

    Choose to opt in and choose to opt out. The concept of “social responsibilty” has been around for quite a while (read J.B Priestley’s inspector calls), but the question is should this be extened into the cyber context? The extension of bricks and clicks morality into the virtual world.

  3. John Senior Says:

    “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” (John Donne 1572-1631)

    Whether it be the cyber world or not, social responsibility is all pervasive. The problem lies with the governance and shaping of said responsibilities and at what point does proactivity become an infringement upon an individuals rights.

  4. Dave Birch Says:

    “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs”

    I am not free from intrusion — the police, for example, can turn up with a warrant and search my house — and nor would I want to live in a society where this were true. I want the good guys to keep an eye on the bad guys. Or, in other words, I want to be left alone but I want the government to check up on everyone else. I is not a black and white issue. Therefore, the issue must inevitably be one of degree and, I think, control.

  5. Toby Stevens Says:

    For a privacy definition of “the right to be left alone” (OED), the key issue here is the ‘right’ – not the ‘alone’. Very few of us choose to be left entirely alone, we surround ourselves with people, phones, computers, tvs, radios etc.

    But we want to know we could be left alone in a given context: I’m happy to be called by family & friends at weekends, but have no interest in receiving calls from double glazing firms. Sometimes I like it when my kids give me a break for an hour and amuse themselves quietly. I want that right. I want to be able to choose when to exercise it. I will decide the context, and that context will change all the time depending upon the nature of the interaction.

    Context and consent are therefore critical. Privacy itself is relatively straightforward – it’s context and consent that make this into such a thorny topic. Companies and governments are not traditionally good at understanding context or consent, but as humans it comes naturally to us. We need to find models that can reflect individual needs within huge populations, and translate those needs into practical commercial models.

  6. Eddie Southcote-Want Says:

    I agree with Toby in that this issue is one of rights. What I wonder, though, is why is cyber-space so special.

    If I chose to send a message via the postal system I can either send a postcard (opting in) or send a letter (opting out). While I would hope that the postie would not want to read my postcard I would be unreasonable to demand that it is not read. By the same token I would be most upset if a letter had been opened during transit.

    Could messages in “cyber” not be trated in the same way or are certain people and organisations playing an “information is power” type of game under the guise of security?

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