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People (including me) tend to value privacy as a general principle. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. And sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Here are a few thoughts to spark a discussion. More below the orange squiggly thing.

Cameras in the Convenience Store

Let’s say I walk into a 7-11 (or any other store) and I see a couple of cameras. You might argue that’s a minor invasion of privacy. But the cameras are there for one of two reasons: Either to get pictures of people who rob the cashier or to watch for shoplifters. Even if the videos are digital and are archived on some computer, what is the threat to my privacy? To notice that I bought a candy bar on Thursday? To notice that I didn’t shoplift? I don’t care about that. Pish tosh.

Cameras at ATMs

Yes, I suppose that that is also a minor invasion of privacy. But suppose someone sticks a gun in my back and robs me when I’m getting cash from the bank machine? I’d certainly want the police to get a picture of that. Or if someone steals my debit card and forces me to divulge the PIN. I’d want a picture of them getting cash from my bank account at the ATM.

GPS Chips

Here’s a really creepy idea for invasion of privacy and/or stalking you might not have thought of. I’m not even sure if it should be against the law. And I don’t have a good link to the article (I might have bookmarked it, but I can’t find it now – it might have been on CNet or Salon or Slate or some similar website – maybe even the NY Times).

An iPhone has a Global Positioning System (GPS) chip, which is how that magical computer in your hand can tell you how to locate the nearest Italian Restaurant or the best highway to take to Madison, WI, and iPhones have a clock (because clock chips are really really cheap and extremely useful). That information, location and time, is often included in the metadata file of a digitized photo that people upload to file-sharing sites such as Tumblr, Picasa, Flickr, etc.  Got that?

A journalist picked out a woman at random who was taking pictures with her iPhone in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. And he imagined the scenario that he was a rapist/stalker – or a private investigator working for her ex-husband or her employer – or an assassin working for a foreign government. He looked at photo-sharing sites until he found the pictures she took (which she voluntarily made public), taken in Golden Gate Park at a certain time on a certain day. Then he looked at the user name on the photos and found a whole bunch of other photos from a house at a certain location  in SF and came to the conclusion that she lived at that location. If he was a stalker or PI or assassin, he figured out where she lived.

Being Tracked by Cell Phone

Here’s a somewhat less creepy idea, but still bothersome to me: If your phone has a GPS chip, the owner of the phone can check to see where you are. If you work for a company that gave you free use of a phone and it has GPS, your employers can see where your phone is at any time during the day. If you are a parent that gives a phone to your teenager, theoretically you could use your computer to check where your teenager is. I’m 55 years old, but I don’t think parents should have access to their kids’ location. I was a kid once. I think kids should be allowed to lie, to say “I’m at Randy’s house” when they’re really at the mall. Adults should be allowed to lie, too. I should be able to say “I’m calling in sick today” when I’m really at the mall. Both situations are an invasion of privacy.

Privacy is Good

Here’s where privacy is a good idea: lawyer/client confidentiality. When a client talks to his or her lawyer, in person or on the phone or on the internet, the government shouldn’t be allowed to eavesdrop. Especially if the client is accused of a crime.

Privacy is Bad

Privacy (secrecy) is a bad idea when elected government officials are discussing issues and deciding how to vote on a bill. Those discussions should be public. Transparency is the opposite of privacy. You don’t want your local city council or the U.S. Senate making secret deals in private. Or getting payoffs. As a general rule, government records should be public (with relatively few exceptions, such as the locations of archeological sites with valuable artifacts or the nesting sites of endangered species or the names and addresses of battered spouses who have a restraining order or the names of spies working for the government).

The Old Days

In the old days when there were no computers, neighbors living on the same street knew all the gossip. That guy in that house is an alcoholic who beats his wife. That guy over there wrote a letter to the editor five years ago supporting the Communist candidate. That one is a Mormon. She’s a Swedish Lutheran. He’s a Norwegian Lutheran. Those people are poor and their kids wear ragged clothes. Stay away from the grandpa in that house; I think he molests kids. If that woman offers you potato salad, don’t eat it; I got food poisoning from it. And so on.

People were involved in gossip. I would argue that privacy is good, but it has never been perfectly achieved.

So there are a few ideas I’ve had about privacy and the invasion of privacy. Anybody have any opinions?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, Bob Love, luckylizard, gfv6800

    But the angle said to them, "Do not be Alfred. A sailor has been born to you"

    by Dbug on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:45:04 AM PDT

  •  privacy is one of those issues which shows the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dbug, spacecadet1

    basic incoherency of the winger ideology.  They all despise Griswold and want to see it overturned because in their odd worldview, the Pill and birth control will lead inevitably to gay marriage which is the beginning of the end for American Extremism. (no kidding, check out some of the leading lights of the NAR)

    At the same time, they claim to champion the right for a person to pretty much do as he darn well pleases, almost embracing a Libertarian view of individual privacy.

    However, point out the basic contradiction between their two stances and your garden variety winger denies any contradiction    

  •  GPS is, of course, a passive device (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You seem to be confused about that.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:00:47 AM PDT

    •  except it's attached to active devices. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dbug, debedb, LostBuckeye

      Cellphones and other networked mobile devices.

      At which point the collected GPS data are relayed to third parties unknown to the user, whose interests are to predict and control the behavior of "consumers."

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:57:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lying is a violation of our right to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    rely on the information provided by our sensory organs. They are fallible enough as it is without being deceived.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:04:06 AM PDT

  •  All rights have to be respected to be. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:13:47 AM PDT

  •  They sell it as "safety" to catch say-- drug (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Dbug


    The trouble is that it can be perverted to stalk and harm women seeking reproductive healthcare and their doctors.

    We are supposed to be safe from "search" of our private thoughts -- and free to make them all "public" if and when we CHOOSE.    Until they GPS & regulate all sperm for consistency with biblical prohibitions ---> keep forced sonograms used as a search in hope of punishing women by enforcing forced pregnancy out of my privates.    That is why they call them PRIVATES.    

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:52:30 AM PDT

  •  I'm of too many minds on this subject (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, Dbug

    to offer anything but scattered-brained thoughts, but these are good points.

    On the one hand, if you got nothin' to hide you should have nothin' to worry about. On the other hand, Total Information Awareness is creepy enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

    I just wish I were invisible.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:55:06 AM PDT

    •  Except identity theft (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and being stalked, and having your home burgled make a lie of the

      if you got nothin' to hide you should have nothin' to worry about.
      A lot of my information is perforce made public, but there are some things I shelter from thieving, prying eyes.  That information never makes it way on line, on paper, and very, very rarely into the ears of others.
  •  Collected data on every person can now be stored (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dbug, Noddy, kurt

    under that persons identity When I was in college I had 150KB to do my programming on for class. Now I have 1 Tb on my computer and 3 TB external drives. Imagine the data storage capacity that is available to those with the bucks.

    I hear the argument that if you are doing nothing wrong so what...

    Question 1 : Who decides what is wrong and how far back can they return in your personal data stream if they don't like your beliefs or preferences?
    Question 2 : What if you piss off some petty little bureaucrat and he decides to destroy you using all the collected data on your life that is stored? Even doing this just for fun.
    Question 3 : What if someone hacks your stored data and substitutes someone elses face (fingerprints, dental records) making you non-existent until they have destroyed your name at which time they replace your face?
    Question 4 : what if a corporation pays to have data inserted that makes you responsible for a debt you never incurred? Or that you sold them something? Think I can't put a real signature of yours onto a document that exists only in a computer?
    Question 5 : What if a serial rapist or killer is loose and he is wealthy enought to pay a data miner to insert alibi GPSs in the system so he can do this all his life and be untouchable?
    Question 6 : What if someone uses computers to insert false video that convicts you for political reasons? Even if the video is made inadmissable it will lead them to find info that a jury will accept unless you are wealthy enough to use detectives to prove it is false or misleading data. Care to find out what death row is like  because someone wants you out of the way?

    I dislike this invasion of privacy of data bases because they are in the computer creating an avatar that they can manipulate that can impact you life in ways that we cannot even see at this moment. I do not mind security cameras that erase video after a specified legal time. I do not like the police seizing the video of private individuals to hide thier bad behavior. But spying on everyone to catch a few is obscene and the larger the collection practice the more openings for misuse and abuse. Like the physical environment, if there is a place to feed something will fill it.

    Proud Slut...Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 09:00:07 AM PDT

    •  No allowance for human fallibility, no room ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, boophus, Dbug

      ... for "forgiveness."

      We all do stupid shit that in the grand scheme of things is truly irrelevant & harmless, but when focused on out-of-context can look really bad.

      Also, with a permanent record of every little thing one might have done wrong, there's no way to put one's past in the past & change direction without being punished for it forever.

      The film "Minority Report" was a warning ...

      The money changers Jesus threw out of the Temple are back as the GOP, using his corpse as a ventriloquist's dummy. (Hat tip to Kossack "Stuart Heady")

      by WereBear Walker on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 10:09:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Before modernity, community structures, churches (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and extended families knew what everyone was up to, most of the time.  Individual privacy as we think of it is a recent development.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 10:14:50 AM PDT

  •  If we want privacy (0+ / 0-)

    We can hide in a cabin in the woods, and never ever come out.

    The interconnected nature of modern society makes living a private life nearly impossible.

    But that does not mean we should go willingly.

    Just because the technology could lead us to a world described in 'Minority Report' does not mean we should let it.

    My privacy has at least some federal protection because of the 4th amendment, but I get no such protections from private industry.  We need to change this and put some privacy laws in place. Private / Public partnerships allow for an end run around privacy rights, and there are plenty of ways to track people.

    It can be done with the usage of a credit card, when your car goes through a toll booth, when you ride the bus, when you log into the computer at work, and when you use your cell phone.

    Everyone has the option to not take the toll road, or use a cell phone, but at what cost to leading a modern life, and not living like Ted Kaczynski.

    We already have public workers threatened because of their personal emails and views (Teachers/Professors and email/facebook), and this expands to everyone else if their employer wants to do a background check on you. Financial data, facebook, you name it, and you will be one of the very lucky few if you have a chance to rebut anything that may be out of context, or just plain wrong.

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