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Sun Systems' McNealy says our privacy is safe in the hands of corporate America

By theora55 in MLP
Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 02:32:45 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems, has a piece in the Washington Post titled The Case Against Absolute Privacy. Basically, he suggests that our privacy is safe in the hands of corporate America, and no government regulation is needed. The benefits of open information outweigh the risks.


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Sun Systems' McNealy says our privacy is safe in the hands of corporate America | 35 comments (32 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
McNealy says our privacy is safe... (2.41 / 12) (#3)
by greyrat on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 02:19:17 PM EST

MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

Looking for advocacy (3.33 / 6) (#4)
by ubu on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 02:29:52 PM EST

Is there a privacy advocate who wants to take a crack at putting forward the case for privacy rights?

I would be looking for a demonstration of basic privacy rights evolving from US Constitutional construction. Or, failing that, an explanation of how constitutional law could be constructed -- from state constitutions, for instance -- without the need for regulation.

I'm not particularly interested in the case for regulation, just rule of law that includes privacy rights.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
It doesnt. (4.50 / 6) (#9)
by eLuddite on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:09:47 PM EST

There is no Constitutional or common law right to privacy. Most people equate privacy with various civil wrongs committed while in the act of obtaining or using 'private' information but common law is perfectly capable of redressing those wrongs. Privacy is just an example of distributive justice. That's good enough for most people since, although it may lessen the market's idealized role as the sole means of achieving a desired distributive pattern, it doesnt take any meaningful rights away from individuals who are not also neo classical economists.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Yes there is. (4.50 / 6) (#11)
by John Milton on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:38:29 PM EST

Amendment nine of the Constitution states that just because a right is not mentioned doesn't mean that it isn't a right. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe in Roe v. Wade, because they said her right to privacy was being infringed upon.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
reply (4.40 / 5) (#15)
by ubu on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:59:06 PM EST

There is no Constitutional or common law right to privacy.

John Milton's reply aside, I imagine you're entirely correct in this.

although it may lessen the market's idealized role as the sole means of achieving a desired distributive pattern, it doesnt take any meaningful rights away from individuals who are not also neo classical economists.

I need not point out that this is rather inconclusive. It would be funny to pit the precautionary principle, with regard to law and its effects on private citizens, against the very legal activists who espouse it.

All joking aside, I would be interested if someone could put forward a legal construction of privacy rights that would be compatible with common law to date. I don't think it's reasonable to ask me to accept that it "doesn't take any meaningful rights away from individuals", especially given the use of such language in support of government censorship, encryption export controls, and handgun control in the 20th century.

Is there anyone willing to establish a legal basis for privacy rights? Or are we just waiting for the Supreme Court to hash it out as politically as possible?

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Warren & Brandeis (4.40 / 5) (#20)
by eLuddite on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:18:33 PM EST

All joking aside, I would be interested if someone could put forward a legal construction of privacy rights that would be compatible with common law to date.

I looked it up in a previous article.

I don't think it's reasonable to ask me to accept that it "doesn't take any meaningful rights away from individuals", especially given the use of such language in support of government censorship, encryption export controls, and handgun control in the 20th century.

I'm not sure I understand. I'm arguing that there is a case for privacy, not against it. I just see it as an example of distributive justice instead of a negative right (freedom from nosiness.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

reply (3.50 / 4) (#21)
by ubu on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:28:28 PM EST

I looked it up in a previous article.

Many thanks. I will not forget Warren & Brandeis, 1890.

I'm not sure I understand. I'm arguing that there is a case for privacy, not against it. I just see it as an example of distributive justice instead of a negative right (freedom from nosiness.)

And I'm saying that distributive justice is an exceedingly dangerous concept. It is necessary to demonstrate overwhelming benefit and almost non-existent detriment when dealing out distributive justice (at least in my opinion it is so). The classic example (in my mind) is the example of airplane overflight. By contrast with sweeping "privacy rights" airplane overflight seems obvious. But privacy "rights" have broad implications that should give us pause, without strict construction from existing common law.

I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to have my privacy. What I'm saying is that I'm cautious to assert a right to privacy.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Well... (3.50 / 4) (#23)
by John Milton on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 09:27:13 PM EST

I think I see what you're saying. Privacy is too hard of a term to define and really isn't addressed in the Constitution, so we should punish the hurts associated with it. If someone peeps in my window and catches me undressing, (lord help them) I should sue for emotional damage. Is that what you're saying?

I have to say that it probably would be better to go that way. I could see a Constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy getting out of hand.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
for sure it would get out of hand (4.80 / 5) (#24)
by eLuddite on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 10:10:37 PM EST

If someone peeps in my window and catches me undressing, (lord help them) I should sue for emotional damage. Is that what you're saying?

I dont think the sight of you naked is an ethical offense in whoever is looking. If, on the other hand, the trail between the peeping tom and and your window involves some kind of convincing property or personal violation, you have a legitimate grievance because someone had to behave unethically to get in a position to cop a view; and since you dont expect unethical behavior, you feel a sense of violation when it sneaks up on you. Your expectation of privacy has been violated.

Compare this with someone filming you under perfectly legal (innocent) circumstances in order to stream the video off a web site. The nature of such an offense strikes me as a prohibition rather than an obvious wrong. There are many prohibitions in law and you can easily transgress any number of them without your knowledge. For example, lighting firecrackers after 9pm. By contrast, when you commit a malum in se, you dont need to be a lawyer to know it's wrong because such acts are unethical. For example, the theft of tangible goods. Similiarly, common law is just law based on unwritten legal principles from time immemorial.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Actually, ... (3.00 / 4) (#25)
by eLuddite on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 10:33:21 PM EST

there's no reason to think it would get out of hand except maybe for the fact that the US is an extremely litigious society. European countries have privacy statutes and possibily some of them have written privacy rights into their Constitutions. Typically, such statutes make it illegal for a company to, for example, personal information, etc.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

US Constitutional Right to Privacy (4.33 / 6) (#12)
by SlydeRule on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:44:05 PM EST

You'll probably find some answers here.

Keep in mind, however, that the US Constitution is concerned with what the government is and is not permitted to do. It is not concerned with privacy intrusions by people and corporations, and thus probably isn't relevant to McNealy.

[ Parent ]

reply (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by ubu on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:50:49 PM EST

Keep in mind, however, that the US Constitution is concerned with what the government is and is not permitted to do. It is not concerned with privacy intrusions by people and corporations, and thus probably isn't relevant to McNealy.

That was sort of what I meant to imply with my comment, at least in part. To clarify, what I'm looking for is some kind of statutory starting place, along the lines of English Common Law, for the construction of privacy rights between private citizens.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
The 4th Amendment (4.60 / 5) (#16)
by eLuddite on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:59:14 PM EST

Is not a privacy right, it is a right from warrantless search and seizure. I dont need a warrant to look in your window because, not being the State, I do not have powers of arrest. The 4th Amendment is simply a restatement of the common law principle that every man's home is his castle, not The King's.

One of the reasons it figures so prominently in your constitution is because smuggling was the leading example for the necessity of protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The English made use of writs of assistance (impromptu warrants) authorizing their stooges entry into any house to search for and seize goods that had eluded customs.

Really, the 4th protects you from the prosecutor's overzealous suspicions getting the better of him or herself. Suspicion != privacy.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

4th amendment and privacy (4.66 / 3) (#31)
by speek on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:21:09 AM EST

The 4th amendment is also about information. Government officials cannot obtain information about what's going on inside your home and use it against you in court. That means, no probes, no infra-red sensors, no x-ray cameras - even if the sensing equipment never touches your property (in actualioty, such evidence has been thrown out of court). So, since privacy is all about information that should not be public, to this extent, the 4th amendment is about privacy too.

That said, it seems its not actually illegal for the police to do this (in that they don't face criminal charges if they do), but no information they get without warrant can be used against you. And, it's really only relevant in terms of someone gathering evidence against you for a criminal case (civil cases are different). So, it's (the 4th amend.) fairly limited in it's protection of privacy.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

"you have no privacy, get over it." (3.66 / 15) (#5)
by radar bunny on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 02:45:11 PM EST

- Scott McNealy

'nuff said

Slightly misleading (4.33 / 12) (#6)
by Kellnerin on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 02:53:53 PM EST

McNealy may be overly optimistic about corporations and their motives (after all, he's the CEO of one; who doesn't like to think well of themselves and others like them?) but what I got out of the article doesn't quite jibe with this writeup.

Basically, he suggests that our privacy is safe in the hands of corporate America, and no government regulation is needed.

He may suggest that if you read it with a certain slant, but he doesn't say it. What he does say is that a company that abuses its customers' information will soon have few customers, if such an action is considered objectionable. He doesn't talk about government intervention one way or another -- he does say that while encryption gives you control over access to your information, locking everything up and making sure you are the only one with the key is not always in your best interest. There is some truth to this.

From the linked article:
On the Internet, even more than in other areas of our lives, trust is the real currency.

I find it hard to argue with this. Sure, McNealy comes off as sounding naive when he says he likes having his car company track his every move through GPS so that they can come to his rescue in a pinch, but one of the major reasons no one wants to put their personal information in the hands of a large corporation is that no one has found one they can trust yet. No one is confident that a company will resist the temptation to exploit such information for their own gain rather than having the customer's personal interests at heart. (Actually, this is only true for a certain segment of the population -- the rest are happily filling out registration cards in detail, signing up for frequent-whatever club cards, and charging every purchase on their credit cards, without much caring who knows what they do and when they like to do it.)

The point is, there is some benefit to giving out certain information to parties that you trust, not unlike giving a spare set of house keys to a friend in case you get locked out at 3 a.m. on a holiday. Living a life without trust is a bad way to be, and maybe one day even a company will realize that there is value to being trustworthy.

--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--

He's mostly off topic. It is about choice. (3.80 / 10) (#8)
by elenchos on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 03:38:37 PM EST

If a consumer wants someone to give out their personal information for whatever purpose, there is nothing wrong with that. I've neve heard anyone say they wanted to restrict your freedom to give out information about yourself. The problem is when they don't bother to ask.

McNealy tries to skirt the real problem, but instead highlights it with his faint praise:

So far the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself. Most companies now post formal privacy policies on their Web sites and allow visitors to have a say in how information about them is used.
That's like saying that "most banks haven't stolen money from their customers, so they are doing a pretty good job of regulating themselves." McNealy is admitting that there are still companies that will cavilierly take and use private data without permission, and it is hardly as rare as theft or other kinds of malfeasance.

So self-regulation hasn't gotten us far enough, and so the logical next step towards making abuse of private information as rare as stealing is to make it a crime, and enforce it as such.

The Constitution was written by Tristan Tzara.
All men are created equal under Dada.
The drug czar makes sure everyone gets enough.
--Poetry

McNealy, privacy advocate (3.20 / 5) (#10)
by SlydeRule on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:20:27 PM EST

This would be the same McNealy quoted here?
The chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems said Monday that consumer privacy issues are a "red herring."

"You have zero privacy anyway," Scott McNealy told a group of reporters and analysts Monday night at an event to launch his company's new Jini technology.

"Get over it."



Scott Mcnealy... (4.00 / 13) (#14)
by Signal 11 on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 04:55:33 PM EST

Did anyone ever stop and think that maybe he's really just a super-rich troll?


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
yeah, (2.00 / 4) (#29)
by pallex on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:47:06 AM EST

perhaps he`s tring to out-wanker Bill Gates?

[ Parent ]
An alternative explanation. (3.50 / 6) (#17)
by jd on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:02:18 PM EST

Maybe the guy is making such hopelessly bizare, outrageous statements to manipulate people into thinking for a change.

Let's face it, your average American lets the media, the politicians and Honest Joe's Loan Shark Superstore do their thinking for them. It would not surprise me in the least if someone deliberately set out to make statements that were so utterly unbelievable, that even an AOL user might stop and think about the issue.

delightful (3.00 / 5) (#19)
by dr k on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:08:30 PM EST

How wonderfully subversive! Do you think Charlie Rose might be doing the same thing, with his endless compliments for every actor and CEO he interviews?
Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]
or Bush! (3.00 / 3) (#30)
by pallex on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:48:04 AM EST

"Come on guys" he must be muttering under his breath. "How much more obvious do we have to make it?"

[ Parent ]
quote from article (4.72 / 11) (#18)
by dr k on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:02:37 PM EST

Someday soon you could find yourself in a strange city and your Web-enabled wireless phone will be able to recommend a nearby restaurant based on your fondness for French, Italian or Mexican cuisine...

Or maybe you'd be in the mood to eat a big pile of shit? The hypothetical situation above is very troubling, because [in my opinion] the main implication is: with the New Technology, you will no longer have to worry about living your own life.

What will you eat for lunch? Why, the phone company has already decided for you. What will you do today? Kraft has decided that you should see the new Sony film. Want to indulge in a victimless crime? The police are on their way.

Maybe someone like McNealy could enjoy a life like this - I'm sure he finds himself alone in a strange city quite often. His life must suck, no friends, no interests, just lots of shiny things.
Destroy all trusted users!

Absolute privacy ? (3.25 / 4) (#22)
by Simon Kinahan on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 06:26:37 PM EST

Who on earth is arguing in favour of absolute rights to privacy ? McNealy's examples are all of people volunteering information in exchange for known benefits. I've never heard anyone argue that should be prevented.

Obviously people should be allowed to volunteer information under terms they choose. The problems come in enforcing the terms, especially in marginal cases, such as company bankruptcy or takeovers.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
Privacy imbalances (4.66 / 6) (#26)
by driptray on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 12:09:19 AM EST

The problem is not how much privacy we have, but that the privacy is not evenly distributed. I'm particularly interested in the idea of removing corporate privacy.

Imagine a scenario in which every company's financial details were open, it's meetings webcast, it's contracts posted on the web - every little detail of every little thing completely open for the world to see.

I'd gladly exchange all my personal privacy for that, assuming that everybody else in the world made the same deal.

If everything about everybody (and I include companies in that) was webcast, who could complain?


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
Yeah, balance the privacy (3.33 / 3) (#27)
by Maxlex on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 02:40:58 AM EST

I'm definitely for a more even handed approach to privacy - if governments and corporations can spy on me, I'd like to be able to spy on them. Actually, I think I remember reading something about this... yes, David Brin wrote a (non-fiction) book with the premise that, basically, we can give up on the notion of privacy. All we can hope for is equality of access to privacy invading tools.

[ Parent ]
Even handed (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by Weezul on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 01:57:32 PM EST

There is no person accountable for the actions of a corperation (stock holderss have limited liability), so corperations should have fewer rights then individuals.

Personally, I support much stronger possition where 50% of the board members are directly ellected by the public (proportional representation to prevent the ellected officials from ever agreeing). Still, you proposal is simpler could work.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
This just in from wired.com... (5.00 / 2) (#28)
by Ray Chason on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 04:15:30 AM EST

This article describes how Eli Lilly let slip the names of 600 people who were on Prozac.
--
The War on Terra is not meant to be won.
Delendae sunt RIAA, MPAA et Windoze
Look at UK law for one way to handle privacy (4.75 / 4) (#32)
by simon farnz on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:53:56 AM EST

In the UK we have the Data Protection Acts to protect our privacy; basically they give us the right to know what information a company keeps on us, to insist that that information is accurate, and to have that information deleted if the company does not have a good reason to keep it. In addition, each company that holds information on me must keep track of who it allows to access that information.

The company to whom I give my data is responsible for ensuring that I am aware of what they will and won't do with it, and I have the right to prevent them from disclosing that information without a court order. If data that I have given to my bank (for example) is then passed on to an insurance company behind my back, the bank would be liable for any breach of law.

Limited use of personal data by individuals is expressly permitted however; this means that my phone book is excluded, but my employer's phone book is not.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns

Unfair Paraphrasing (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by jdonagher on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:03:49 PM EST

I think the abstract for this article was unfair.

He didn't make any kind of blanket statement. He made a case about why privacy isn't always the golden fleece (e.g. "Absolute Privacy"), and some very good and some not so good points about beneficial applications of carefully shared information.

And I don't really trust the government to care about my privacy, when single DES is "good enough".

Single DES is not "good enough" (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by srichman on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 12:05:59 AM EST

And I don't really trust the government to care about my privacy, when single DES is "good enough".

The government adopted DES as it encryption standard in 1974. It was about 20 years before DES was cracked.

These days, the US government does not think that single DES is "good enough." Single DES is being phased out from government use, and is currently permitted in legacy systems only. The legacy allowance seems reasonable; your OS quite possible stores your password DES-enrypted (though years ago BSDs started using Blowfish, MD5, and other encryption/hash algorithms for storing passwd entries). The government has been using Triple DES for some time.

In case you hadn't heard, for the last four years or so the National Institute of Standards & Technology has been working on the selection of an Advanced Encryption Standard to replace DES. Last October, NIST chose Rijndael as the AES algorithm. 3DES is expected to remain an approved algorithm for government encryption.

[ Parent ]

Sun Systems' McNealy says our privacy is safe in the hands of corporate America | 35 comments (32 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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