For a friend… I need to develop my stance on privacy a little more.  I think that my stance is that it is vital to address what it is, it’s nature, and how it is part of something much bigger and more important.  Privacy is a battle in a greater war, and I almost think it is an effective diversion, a divisive red herring.


Al-Qaida are now using war based online video game chat rooms to mask conversation about insurgency, & terrorist plans. That’s crazy… it’s easy to pick out keywords & discussion from emails about bombings, etc. But talking about explosions, guns, or bombings in a Counter-Strike or Rainbow 6 live video game chat room setting??  Good luck with that.  Filtering that conversation would be impossible. It’s probably just high school friends high and Dr. Pepper and shooting each other in the head.  But it’s amazing how advanced our methods of tracking these “insurgents” have become, especially in such a short period of time.





This is a fascinating NPR Fresh Air dicussion about the problems and advancements in battling terrorists in the modern world.  Personally, I think it really starts begging the question of how the future of your privacy will figure into your own safety.  Can we afford to be near sighted, and completely idealistic?  Do you think the government won’t try to protect its citizens? Whether that could be defined as a government nobly chivalrous in their vigilant struggle to safe guard vs nefariously plotting to control its citizens.. is somewhat moot.  There will always be safeguards in place, and methods of policing the world. As technology rapidly grows, and they stumble into powerful tools that help them police – we know three things:


1) These advanced methods of policing for terrorist activity are effective and will stop terrorist attacks.

2) Fallible humans will misuse this technology.

3) Terrorists will succeed at some level of mass casualty terrorist attack in the future.

We will need to protect ourselves.  To think any government would do so without the aid of modern technological methods is naive. Yes, these technological methods of tracking and mining data pose problems, but we cannot go back. They are here to stay, so we need to stop hoping our privacy won’t be violated, because it’s basically gone, and ebbing.  We need to start talking about how we can possibly control these new technologies – from personalization that creates confirmation bias and selective perception, to how algorithms inhumanely track us and collect data, and spread that “lens of who we are” to other people without our ability to access, or define it. *We need to have oversight*, but first….

Some of the conversation is about privacy… a bit of it.  But a couple questions:

How do *YOU* define privacy?

How much privacy do you already have?

How much privacy do you give away with every new bit of personal data throughout any of these social sites?

How much privacy do you have after giving it away for free apps that track the movements of your fingers and habits on your phone?

I think privacy is too small a word for what is going on now. Algorithms are now shaping our lives in a way that we can not see or touch. Then there is another bubble filtering and personalizing and defining our reality, so I think it is myopic to just talk about privacy; we are truly beginning an unknown struggle for both how we are allowed to perceive reality, as well as how we can access technologies out of our control that are beginning to define how we are perceived by the outside world. Privacy is a tiny component of what is really going on, and I think it’s almost being used to divert attention from these untouchably huge and ineffable concepts about these intangible things that are beginning to control our lives.


A dear friend has pointed out that my stance on privacy is confusing, because it seems I am attacking the concept of privacy, and simply berating those interested in its preservation. This is not the case…. I think it is vital to understand it… and far beyond wanting to preserve “privacy”, I want to define it. I want to understand it.  I think I was operating off the assumption that everyone speaks about privacy on the same level.  However, some people speak of it in the sense that they don’t want a boss or relative to see that *one* picture on their Facebook page, while others are worried about the nature of how you exist in society, or are able to exist without being denied inalienable freedoms.


I think the latter starts touching on *MY* personal concept of privacy – that privacy is more about the freedom to autonomously live within society by your own standards and means, with civil liberties not encroached upon.  But if that is true, then privacy is something much bigger than just “privacy” – it’s about our police system, and the health of our government, and the stability of our economy, among an endless array of other factors.


Part of this is naivety… it’s accepting that these technologies already exist, and hoping that they somehow just “go away” is short sighted, and impractical.  Finding some level of oversight that maintains it, and puts it in check, seems paramount.  I am not saying I have those answers, but the discussion needs to start.  I see great difficulty with the intersection of capitalist self-interest (who will share their code to a 3rd party?), to the general inefficiency (and some corruption) of the government. But we need to stop posting links to articles about the eroding privacy in our nation, and have some smart people form a smart committee to talk about these issues. Honestly, that’s more of a question.  I know some people think they are on the righteous path with hacktivism, and I know some people think it should be managed through the long and sinewy process of regulation. I don’t know the right answer. Personally I just don’t want anyone hurt, and I mean “hurt” in a spectrum of ways… from bodily harm and personal health to quality of life and right to live it.  Let’s move past awareness into some level of methodical, calculated action towards civic management of these concerns.


If we don’t, we will see more articles like this… Santa Cruz police called to the scene of crime before it happens, 2 arrests made.  Algorithms, not Precogs, in this case… it’s still a bit Minority Report (Thankfully without Tom Cruise). But, solving a crime before it happens? How does that make you feel?  Is there a chance a technology like this could be abused or misused?  This was a computer program that called two cops out to stop a burglary before it was in progress. Two women peering into car windows along a street.  Upon detainment, one was found to have a warrant, one had illegal / controlled narcotics on her. I think the way they derived the program is fitting enough… behaviors are behaviors after all, and I bet they aren’t that different, shopping and thieving [below from above article]:

Predicting crime with computer programs is in some ways a natural outgrowth of the technology that companies like Wal-Mart now use routinely to predict the buying habits of customers, said Scott Dickson, a crime analyst for the police department in Killeen, Tex., who discussed the Santa Cruz experiment on his blog.


So is this necessarily *evil*? So is this necessarily *bad*? Is that even about privacy? If you are on a public street, in a public place… what reasonable expectation of privacy do you have? What if they do make things safer, and they are *not* misused?  Can they be handled with appropriate fairness? OR… Should we simply not use them?


I doubt we will be able to remove the CCTV cameras used by cities, companies, etc for a multitude of reasons… scenic views, security, protection, liability, etc. They are there, and they are catching everything.  What’s more, the issue of big brother in a country that can’t keep it’s affairs in order, nor hide malfeasance, isn’t so much about the government as it is Tom, Dick, Harry, & Jane, the on-the-beat citizen-paparazzi-journalist-blogger, that has a camera & can upload to theinternet at speeds up to 4G+. We need to be methodical about how governments and corporations use these technologies, but we should simply be scared of everyone. *Personally*, I am not scared of governments and corporations so much as I fear the way we will exploit one another, and capitalism will commoditizeand leverage our willingness to spy and pry on fellow citizens – a government’s privatized police force will definitely have access, and use, that information. It’s this collective consciousness that teeters on the precipice of anarchy that worries me.  As all this information aggregates, it might not be used to arrest you, but it will definitely create the lens of reality the public and institutions judge you on, a personality profile that will be used when the time is right.  Whether that time is defined by a computer’s algorithm or human is to be determined.  Health insurance companies are already denying claims based off of things that haven’t happened, and now they are tapping into the social graph to make assumptions about you based off of friend’s behavior… so I am afraid to say it’s already happening.  It’s complex, though… the free flow of data is dangerous (government secrets from enemies, that nude picture of you), while controlling data and opacity over transparency is simply wrong. But we need to have the tools to fix that, and none of us have that access or control, anymore.


I know it sounds Orwellian, but it doesn’t have to be. The erosion of privacy has already happened, and now it’s a struggle for the right to define reality.  It’s that everyone is talking about privacy in these prosaic terms, and there is this whole meta world of privacy that was eroded 20 years ago, and is now less relevant. All too often, the way people talk about privacy is the privacy that disappeared 20 years ago and now there is a whole new battleground that is too ethereal and complex for people to dig into. This is about the right for control.


About Uncle Fishbits

I'm.. just this guy, you know?

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