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Why do we need privacy?

By enterfornone in Op-Ed
Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:43:55 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Many people feel that there are a certain set of rights that all should be entitled to. One of the inalienable rights often cited by people is a right to privacy.

Is this right really necessary, or is it simply an excuse for people to conceal their actions?

I can think of two areas where privacy should be desired. One of them comes from the desire for security. People should be entitled to enough privacy to stop their credit card details from falling into the wrong hands, to stop stalkers obtaining their address and to stop spammers obtaining their email address.

The other area where privacy would be desired when modesty is a consideration. Obviously most people don't want camera in their showers and bedrooms. It is logical to think that this right should extend to strip searches and the like.

However privacy advocates often feel that privacy should be extended far more broadly, to cover virtually all speech and action. More often than not, privacy advocates seek to extend privacy in order to conceal actions that they know are wrong, or at the very least would rather not admit to.

A recent issue that has privacy advocates up in arms is copy prevention measures in Microsoft's latest versions of Windows. This requires Windows users to contact Microsoft either via the web or by telephone in order to register their copy of Windows. If you don't do that within 30 days your software will no longer function.

Privacy advocates claim that forcing them to reveal their identity to Microsoft breaches their right to privacy. However in the past software licenses are one of the few licenses that it has been possible to accept anonymously. It seems to me logical, perhaps preferable that the parties to the license should establish each others identity in order to establish the license contract. As far as I can see the only people who would have a problem with the Window copy prevention scheme are those who would want to breach Microsoft's copyright.

Another issue that has privacy advocates up in arms is surveillance systems. Earlier this year computer programmer Ivan Lim captured thieves breaking into his house on his webcam. Privacy advocates were angered when he posted the footage to a web site. According to Cameron Murphy, NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, "It's outrageous - a major breach of the right to privacy". Presumably Mr Murphy feels that thieves should have a right to conceal their crimes from their victims.

In the above cases the privacy advocates haven't gotten their way. When they do, the results aren't always good. According to this CCN article, EU privacy laws which require ISPs to erase traffic data have prevented police tracking down traders of child pornography.

It isn't just in the area of criminal activity that privacy advocates feel they should be able to hide their actions. Unions in the UK complained last year about a government bill that would allow employers to monitor their employees email and telephone calls. If you are only using your employers telephone and email facilities for business use this shouldn't be a problem. The only way this can infringe your right to privacy is if you are using your employers facilities to conduct personal, private communications.

While a certain amount of privacy is important, we need to be careful that we don't allow a right to privacy that is so broad that we allow wrongdoers to easily conceal their actions. We don't need that much privacy.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o copy prevention measures
o Privacy advocates were angered
o this CCN article
o Unions in the UK
o Also by enterfornone

Display: Sort:
Why do we need privacy? | 47 comments (46 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
It's not so much that we need privacy (3.57 / 7) (#1)
by streetlawyer on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:59:19 AM EST

It's more that we *want* privacy, and that's important too. Which is why privacy issues should always be vigourously fought for, but also why it should be acknowledged that privacy, like healthcare is a good which has a cost, and that sometimes that cost is too high.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
USA stuff (4.55 / 9) (#3)
by Blarney on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:43:00 AM EST

I'd like to just tackle the bit about catching criminals, if I may. Many people believe that apprehending and punishing every criminal is the highest priority. However, the founders of the United States believed that making sure innocent people were not convicted was the most important thing. Why did they have this attitude? They'd put up with abusive authority and witch hunts, and wanted it to stop. Should a crook get away now and again, so be it. He'd probably move out West and change his name. Life goes on.

The system that the Bill of Rights describes has been modified heavily over the years, and understandably so. It is quite unreasonable to expect one of the oldest governmental systems in the world to uphold the values of a bunch of revolutionaries. However, if you actually look at the text, you'll see that catching criminals is a game, kind of a cowboy thing. A fair fight and all that, no hitting below the belt or shooting in the back. Under the Bill of Rights, somebody has to have a good reason to suspect what the accused has done and he has to make a good guess as to how he performed his crime. A warrant is issued then, and the instruments of the crime are taken as evidence - not every piece of paper in the accused's house, no looking under the bed, just the items described. Finally, the accused and the accuser are to face off in front of a randomly selected group of citizens who decide the matter of guilt.

Of course, this was never actually strictly adhered to, and certainly is not now.

What you propose is that, were everybody strictly monitored, every criminal would be punished. This cannot actually happen, because we all are criminals. I have myself committed crimes, and so have you. Have you never stolen anything, taken any illegal drug, performed any sexual activity (not necessarily penetration) with a person younger then 16 (even if you're under 18, that is no defense in my state)? Have you never threatened anyone, gained their possessions or labor by deceit, driven a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs which might impair your reaction time? Have you never infringed copyright law, lit an open fire outdoors, purchased a 5 gallon toilet from Canada, or any of the other illegal things in the laws of your country? If so, Sir, you may guard the jail while everybody else stays in there.

Now that all have been revealed as crooks, and that it is obvious that resources to punish all criminals do not exist, the matter of who gets prosecuted or not depends only upon the whim of the prosecuting officials. The law becomes irrelevant now, as all break it - only the feelings of the prosecutor matter. We might as well have no laws at all. The silly games of the Bill of Rights start to make more sense when this arbitrary autocratic situation is seen as the only alternative. Let's NOT bother catching every criminal. Let's play the stupid cowboy games.

Yes, the WildWest1884 over Orwell84 anytime thanks (none / 0) (#6)
by Jambu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 06:44:53 AM EST

I'd prefer the stupid cowboy games anytime over let's be on recorded TV. Worse yet would be a merge of the two...."WANTED DEAD or ALIVE. WHY? Because they broke into my house. (Please pass this link to your friends.)" This trial by webcam is about the last sort of society I'd ever want to live in. Something that Orwell never envisaged this, that the populace would be videoing themselves, gleefully dobbing each other in vigilante style.
I propose a law, have any webcam be clearly signed or be breaking this law. And have a precident set that any webcam shots not be permissible evidence. Oh, and people deliberately breaking this law by "pass this link to your friends" are then the criminals.
This AustralianIT news article doesn't sound as cool if you change the protagonists to Woolworths Mega-octopus shopping centre Corp and a shoplifting kid.

[ Parent ]
Why not? (none / 0) (#7)
by enterfornone on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:03:24 AM EST

Just cos Woolworths are a big company does that mean the kid should expect to be protected if he steals from them. Why shouldn't they be able to hang wanted posters out the front? The only people who are being violated are the criminals.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Innocent until proven guilty (none / 0) (#9)
by BoredByPolitics on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:28:21 AM EST

Why shouldn't they be able to hang wanted posters out the front? The only people who are being violated are the criminals.

Alledged Criminals - Publish what you want once they've been proved guilty in a court of law, until then they're completely innocent, and therefore shouldn't be subjected to one person's warped notion of Justice.

"Every contract has a sanity clause", "Sanity clause! Sanity clause! You can't fool me, there's no such thing as Sanity Claus"
[ Parent ]

Point (none / 0) (#16)
by enterfornone on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:14:35 AM EST

However a wanted poster is not a punishment. If the person is innocent all they have to do is come forward and let the accuser prove that they are guilty. If they are innocent (or even if they are just not guilty) they have nothing to worry about.

I'm not sure I agree with stuff like this but that's more a matter of defamation than privacy.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]

scary link that (none / 0) (#33)
by Jambu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:14:31 PM EST

Holy jees thats a scary link. Makes me want to get involved in prostitution that, just to show support for the poor people who's Right to privacy has been caught, killed and pinned on that prostitution_photos webpage. I can imagine situations were a respectfully done wanted poster (wanted for questioning blah blah) would not be a flagrant punishment, but I would still grumble. I think that the least mandatory privacy safeguard in this case would be to have it subject to search/arrest warrant procedures. Even so, I'd still set up my own vigilante webcam titled "Check these stupid sheep out, last photographed entering the Woolworths Privacy Rape store," or something. We here know that webcam/broadband tech is an abacus compared to will come. I liked that discussion a while back on /. about the need for updating our nightmare future from Orwell to Kafka. In the future we will probably all be in jail for violating a law we didn't know existed, busted by a fiendish mechanism we-know-not-how. I soothsay that as an old man I'll be dragged off and shot for farting instore on Sacred World Wide Woolworths Day 2026.

[ Parent ]
Vigilante web cams (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by Jambu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:33:31 AM EST

I'm quite sure the type of world that you or I would want to live in would need to have laws stopping corporations posting their own posters, pre-a-fair-trial (or private citizens using web cams and e-mail forwarding for that matter). Vigilante societies quickly get out of hand. Vigilante societies empowered with hi-tech privacy busting gear could get really scary.
The kid caught in a "possibly" incriminating pose is not yet a criminal. Also I have some personal experience with breaking into a home, technically illegally, but to gather evidence for a fair magistrates hearing, or in another case I know of for a domestic violence case of returning property.
I'm not saying its not a tricky issue. Property crime does suck, its just that in a high-tech world without VERY strong privacy laws the cure-for-theft could poison us all.

[ Parent ]
Orwell did predict ... (none / 0) (#8)
by BoredByPolitics on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:13:50 AM EST

Something that Orwell never envisaged this, that the populace would be videoing themselves, gleefully dobbing each other in vigilante style.

Thought Crime - children being encouraged to incriminate their parents for thinking bad thoughts.

"Every contract has a sanity clause", "Sanity clause! Sanity clause! You can't fool me, there's no such thing as Sanity Claus"
[ Parent ]

webcams as evidence (none / 0) (#29)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:31:15 PM EST

I am currently running a webcam system at my company as a security camera system. Should that not be permissable as evidence? The mere suggestion is ludicrous. The company is recording what takes place on its own property, and not even in places where privacy would be expected (bathroom, showers and whatnot).

I do think that webcams watching out everyone's window would be annoying, but I don't think it will ever become prevalent enough for me to care.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
[ Parent ]

Depends on how said cam is setup (none / 0) (#37)
by Jambu on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 08:59:47 AM EST

I was thinking of running a factory webcam too for security at one stage. In retrospect I think I (should) have done two things had I set it up. One would have been to clearly label it. The other would be for it to be not publicly accessible via the www. Out of curiosity how is your companies' security set up?

I think it is being a little optimistic that in the 'future' (pick a date X) webcams will only be hanging out every window. More like they will be wireless, a few dollars a piece, and carried down the street by every fool you meet.

[ Parent ]
camera labelling and security (none / 0) (#38)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:38:25 PM EST

Hm, I don't think the cameras are particularly labelled. In fact, one of them is intentionally concealed. I think all the employees know that they're there, though. They're in public areas which generally have people around. I don't think we even need to have them on during business hours, but that would require more human maintenance to make sure they're on when hours are weird, so they're on 24/7.

The images are not publically accessible. They're protected by a password. It's not SSL, but it's also not *that* important, esp given as we don't even have SSL for anything yet (certificate issues I think).

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
[ Parent ]

public for Hax0rs only (none / 0) (#43)
by Jambu on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 07:44:52 PM EST

Seems a fair set-up, its just a private security camera really.
"In fact, one of them is intentionally concealed": hope that's not an Office Upskirts cam ;)

[ Parent ]
You're right.... (none / 0) (#41)
by mwa on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:06:10 PM EST

They should have asked for consent. You know, place an agreement poster on all their doors and windows: "There's a webcam in this house, breaking and entering constitutes your permission to be filmed and for recordings of that film to be transmitted."


Your "right to privacy" does not exist when you break into my house.

[ Parent ]

Gentle Reader, be polite to visitors (none / 0) (#44)
by Jambu on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:16:42 PM EST

My house! My property! The shrill call of the tabloid press who are the frontline troops for privacy busters. Actually a simple sign at the gate, "This Property is on Public Webcam" would help protect your property `caus prevention is the best cure. It would also help a prosecution lawyer win a fair-and-legal trial against the home invaders. You can, after all, not be accused of recording or publishing personal details without consent, an important point in any good legal system.

But the main issue is one of respect for your visitors and friends. I have been extrapolating to the future here, when webcam technology has detailed resolution, there is bandwith to burn, and the top pattern recognition software is freeware. Actually on reflection I am not too worried that a 1984-by-CamDemocracy will eventuate, with the goons all wanting to broadcast their own public space reality TV. The public themselves will start to call for law reform, when the headlines start to bite.

Husband Cam-Busted for Gay Affair. Local Church Member Spots.

Kid Disappears. Amateur Forest Cam Implicated.

Cam-Sackings Surge with new Microsoft CamScanSoft
Sick day at the Beach no Longer an Option

[ Parent ]
This one's easy (3.83 / 6) (#4)
by Miniluv on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:50:55 AM EST

Why do we need privacy? So that we can choose to give it up.

People who claim Microsoft is violating their hypothetical right to privacy need to grow up and realize what business means. I do not have a right to dictate the terms of a license to my vendor without their consent. I do have the right to decide with whom I will do business, and what amount of information I am willing to surrender in order to do that business.

Privacy protection, in my mind, falls into two easy categories. The first is non-discretionary information disclosure to government. The second is the same non-discretionary disclosure to business, and both of them should be outlawed. Essential services should be available in a form allowing me as a consumer to choose what I'm willing to sacrifice when I tip the scales towards privacy or convenience. This will tend to be less true with government than business due to the nature of services government will provide.

Many industries can functional at exceptionally high levels of efficiency without invading my privacy, so there is no reason to remove my discretionary control over personal information. Those that do require information exchange need to be carefully considered before legislation is enacted, and that legislation must always remember that the individual is more important than the business, because the individual can choose to divulge more than required, but not less.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

Asia does not vote in the US elections (1.50 / 2) (#5)
by Jambu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 06:01:18 AM EST

Software licences and privacy concerns; "in the past software licenses are one of the few licences that it has been possible to accept anonymously" But an important point is that these other types of licences are usually with a Government, which is part of your community, and hopefully an organisation you can have a say in the running of. I admit that this is a valid point made, that "the parties to the license should establish each others identity in order to establish the license contract." However it is not insignificant, the nature of the company we are referring to here. I was glad to read "Microsoft says it's a completely anonymous process -- presumably because this identifying information is stored somewhere in Windows and not sent to Microsoft's servers." It's a moot point that this company is in a very powerful extra-Governmental position, and if it continues to extend its Monopoly I don't know how much it can be trusted to not reverse this protection. Particularly if its profits start to fall as they are expected to, despite an also expected increase in Microsoft software uptake. That means piracy will be the next Microsoft target and it will need to name names to counter this. I suspect it will the third world that will wear the brunt of whatever meddlesome privacy/piracy busting measures they implement. It has been Asia that has had to suffer their double key ring home Office CD anti-piracy trial. Understand this; the third world needs to use cracked Microsoft software to have any economic viability. These privacy busting measures will be used against organisations and businesses that simply cannot afford, nor ethically should be compelled to, pay first world licence fees.
Could be though that the XP privacy/piracy busting measures will be a boom for Linux. Good thing maybe? Microsoft is a habit we all have to kick sometime.

correction (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:30:24 AM EST

Privacy advocates claim that forcing them to reveal their identity to Microsoft breaches their right to privacy.

It seems to me logical, perhaps preferable that the parties to the license should establish each others identity in order to establish the license contract.

Your identity is anonymous during Product Activation. You give them a product ID, they give you an installation ID. If that sounds familiar it's probably because most trial software works exactly the same way. Furthermore, MS separates product activation from product registration. The latter is optional and not in any way necessary for activation. Compared to most commercial software, MS has engineered the process in a way that protects your privacy.

I suggest people interested in privacy make a minimal effort to distinguish it from piracy. They differ in more than a 'v'.

Microsoft Product Activation.

God hates human rights.

The concern I have with product activation (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by aphrael on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:57:26 AM EST

possibly OT ...

My concern is that products have to be re-activated when installed on new machines. OK, so far so good --- it's annoying, but switching machines is always annoying, so no great harm is done. Yet ...

Imagine I've got Word 2002 and I *really* like it. In 2010 I buy a new machine and install word 2002 on it and go to activate it ...

And MS stopped supporting Word 2002 3 years ago, and their activation software no longer recognizes it, and their customer service people don't know what to do about it.

I'm hosed; I have to upgrade to a newer version of Word to run Word on my new machine, whether I want to or not, and this perfectly good piece of software that i *like* is now utterly useless to me.

I don't think anyone is planning for this to happen; it's not deliberate. But it's what *will* happen. Product activation is part of planned obsolecense.

[ Parent ]

tech support knows (none / 0) (#36)
by eudas on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:59:33 AM EST

there are lots of people out there who still like netscape 2.0, too, but nobody supports THAT anymore either. where do you draw the line at what is oldie goodie and what should be chucked for something newer?

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]
Tech Support? (none / 0) (#39)
by raelin on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:13:54 PM EST

There's a difference between supporting something, and disallowing it's use. With this product activation scheme, you would not be able to use it, no matter how competent you were, since you could not install it. Installing Netscape 2.0 is easy. Even if most of the web won't support it, you can still use it for your own personal effects.


[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#42)
by aphrael on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:53:42 PM EST

(1) TS probably doesn't know. I spent 4 years in support, and by the time I left I had been there longer than anyone else; there was nobody who knew about the stuff that had been released a year or two before I arrived. That's not unusual at all for TS departments; anything older than a generation or at most two of software is forgotten.

(2) I'm not talking about support, tho. Product activation runs the risk of making it *ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE* to use software if the company doesn't want to support it any more. Unsupported software can still be used; unactivatable software cannot.

[ Parent ]

that's a fair bit of unfair speculation (none / 0) (#45)
by eLuddite on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 10:22:49 PM EST

Where is the evidence that activation records for version X can or will be forgotten? Computers can remember stuff forever as easily as for a day. Do you entertain similiar worries of your govt forgetting your social security number?

Product activation runs the risk of making it *ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE* to use software if the company doesn't want to support it any more.

They can activate it without liability for support. That part hasnt changed.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Dude ... (none / 0) (#46)
by aphrael on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 03:52:15 AM EST

I work for a professional software company. I did support for this company for four years. We don't still *have* copies, that anyone can find, of software from six years ago. Neither, when I was trying to get a copy of Balance of Power, did the company that made it. Why would activation records be any different? When the company no longer has a financial interest in keeping the records around, why would it?

[ Parent ]
most likely because (none / 0) (#47)
by eLuddite on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:28:54 AM EST

An activation record a isnt inventory. Whatever. MS do seem to have a fair bit of administrative and database talent so I'm not prepared to dismiss this activation scheme as so many scribbles on a napkin.

Not that I care, really. If I decide to buy their stuff in the future, I'll factor into that decision knowledge that it may be useless a decade from now. Despite the fact that MS is still supporting MSDOS, I had no problem throwing out my decade old software with my decade old hardware. Both outlived their usefulness and exceeded their purchase price in value.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

You've got it backwards (4.85 / 7) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:40:29 AM EST

You ask "why do we need privacy?" You should instead ask "why does someone else need to invade my privacy?"

Police states have a simple rule: everything not required is forbidden. You seem to think privacy falls into this category. Can't think of a compelling reason to have it? Get rid of it. But as streetlawyer points out in another post, isn't it enough that I *want* privacy?

Certainly, privacy rights have a limit--as do all rights. My rights generally end where your rights begin. This is why we allow search warrants for "reasonable cause". Is "Company X wants to make money" a reasonable cause to curtail my rights?

Play 囲碁
Common mistake (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by error 404 on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:54:55 AM EST

Police states have a simple rule: everything not required is forbidden.
I think Orwell was the one who made it most famously. But I used to live in several police states (no, I'm not one of the shrill people who count the USA as a police state, I'm talking about several Central American countries which were cold war proxies at the time) and just about everything that is required is also forbidden. Otherwise you might have innocent people arrested, which could be inconvenient. And anyway, when forbidding things, who has time to review what's required, and vice versa?

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
the "right" to privacy (4.50 / 6) (#13)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:55:27 AM EST

Is this right really necessary, or is it simply an excuse for people to conceal their actions?

Well, rights are usually protected by law and privacy is very unequally protected. There are four traditional invasion of privacy torts:

  • intrusion upon seclusion
    • This occurs when one intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon your solitude, seclusion, private affairs or concerns, such that the intrusion is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  • appropriation
    • Appropriation is committed when you appropriate for your use or benefit someone else's name or likeness.
  • publication of private facts
    • Publication of private facts is an invasion of privacy when you give publicity to a matter concerning the private life of someone else and that matter publicized is (a) highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) not a legitimate concern to the public.
  • false light publicity
    • False light publicity occurs when you give publicity to a matter concerning another, placing the other before the public in a false light and (a) the false light in which the other was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) you had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.
Sounds reasonable, right? Well, if you go before multiple state courts arguing any of these torts, your case will be summarily dismissed. The reason for that is as follows:

The tort of invasion of privacy is rooted in a common law right to privacy first described in an 1890 law review article by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis. The article posited that the common law has always protected an individual's person and property, with the extent and nature of that protection changing over time. The fundamental right to privacy is both reflected in those protections and grows out of them.

In other words, you have no right to privacy, per se, only the run of the mill common rights that may or may not be abrogated when someone invades your privacy. This is true in America and, I believe, in the UK.

Earlier this year computer programmer Ivan Lim captured thieves breaking into his house on his webcam. Privacy advocates were angered when he posted the footage to a web site. According to Cameron Murphy, NSW Council of Civil Liberties president, "It's outrageous - a major breach of the right to privacy".

I dont see that this action violates any of the privacy torts or common law. In my personal opinion, "privacy advocates" are often more shrill than actually reasonable. Their shrillness is a result of an incorrect assumption that privacy is a Right, making it very easy to jerk their knee and yell "invasion of privacy!" Right is a loaded word; its improper use is rhetoric, not reason.

Thank you, I love you too.

God hates human rights.

Ummmm...I'm not lawyer, but... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:02:09 AM EST

....in light of what you've said, maybe you can clear up one tiny matter for me. What is this: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Just what it says, (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:08:24 AM EST

you and your stuff is yours.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

The 4th Amendment is about *ownership*?? (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:14:40 AM EST

Let's look again.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

If all this said was "you and your stuff is yours", how do you explain the presence of "secure...against unreasonable searches and seizures" plus the stuff about "Warrants"? It sounds to me like the government can't install a surveillance camera in my house, which further sounds to me like a "right to privacy" at least as far the government goes.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
its not about privacy either (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:37:35 AM EST

The 4th isnt a guarantee of privacy, per se, although its interpretation has grown to include arguements for privacy. Really, it's not like the people who drafted the constitution didnt have the diction skills to include the word privacy if that's what they wanted.

The 4th amendment isnt out to protect your "privacy," it's another guarantee of your rights, those things contained within your being and extending to your property which you obtained by virtue of you being you. The stuff that is DesiredUsername.

So, it isnt a right to privacy, although it is used (and opposed) in privacy arguements, just like any other article of common law. Which is what I originally wrote.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

I can see how part of the fourth amendment (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by aphrael on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:53:43 AM EST

is about protecting property rights --- you have the right to not have your stuff *seized* without cause. But to say that it has nothing to do with privacy ignores the other half of the cause; I am protected from unreasonable *searches* as well as unreasonable *seizures*.

If all the authors wanted to do was protect property rights, the searching specification wouldn't have been needed. There's more to it than that.

[ Parent ]

please lay this to rest -- suspicion != privacy (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 01:14:49 PM EST

If all the authors wanted to do was protect property rights, the searching specification wouldn't have been needed. There's more to it than that.


But why do you immediately equate search with privacy? I've given you the 4 invasion of privacy torts. Where do you see a requirement for search there? I can invade your privacy quite handily without falling foul of the 4th amendment. If the 4th was meant to protect your privacy, dont you think it would have been explicitly written to do so?

Search and seizure isn't meant to protect your privacy, it is meant to prevent someone looking for X from entering your home and turning it upside down on the suspicion that you have X. It was written to constrain law enforcement. Law enforcement isnt out to invade your privacy, that isn't their motive at all. Law enforcement is out to seize X and they'll turn you inside out in order to find it.

The 4th is protection from unauthorized warrants. Protection against suspicion, as it were, not privacy.

Under some circumstances, the 4th can be used to argue (not entirely effectively) against a few narrowly specific instances of privacy invasion. It is by no means a "right to privacy" - not by intent, design, or interpretation. There are many explicit rights in the US Constitution, the right to privacy is not among them.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

you'd understand it better if you knew its history (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:49:54 AM EST

"Everyman man's hous is his castle."

That's an English expression which the colonials would have known and understood, being English, themselves. It's a defense against unlawful entry of the King into your house.

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 (warrants) authorizing their stooges entry into any house to search for and seize goods that had eluded customs.

I dunno, maybe tea?

So, having this in perspective, it's small wonder that they didnt write "privacy," isnt it?

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Right to Privacy == Freedom from Harassment (4.66 / 6) (#21)
by BackSlash on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:02:11 AM EST

I have been pulled over for speeding 5 times in 3 years. I was asked by the police officer if he could search my car EVERY time. 5 times I said no, and only once did the police officer search my car anyway. (I guess if you travel 75 in a 55, you must be carrying drugs)

That particular case was inconvienant, and a small price to pay to make sure I wasn't smuggling 100 lbs of cheap Mexican marijuana to harm our youth, right? Well, considering I was pulled over 3 blocks from work, several of my co-workers - even my boss - see me standing helplessly next to my car while one of the boys in blue is tearing through my glove box.

Top it off with a pat-down inspired by Deliverance.

Not a pretty sight.

Worse still was the fact that I couldn't hold anyone liable. Excessive speeding IS probable cause in my county, and having an officer of the law rummage through your suitcase in plain view of your peers doesn't constitute harassment.

Now, let's say everyone held the paranoid view the author of the article does - namely, "... we don't allow a right to privacy that is so broad that we allow wrongdoers to easily conceal their actions."

In my case, barring the police officer from searching my car would have allowed me to potentially get away with marijuana possession. Since I do smoke a bit of dope, it's an offense that I regularly commit, although how one can tell by how far over the speed limit I travel is an amazing piece of police work.

Suppose too, that my employer took notice, and figured the police officer had good cause to search my car. Not wanting a criminal on staff, he terminates me. Indiana is an at-will state, after all. Is that an 'invasion of privacy'? An unreasonable search in plain view, 'convicted' without trial - all these things smack of tyranny - which is what privacy, the right to not have to explain every action one takes, protects against.

I have a fundemental right to walk down the street and not be harassed by society's guardians.

"Fuckin with me cuz I'm a teenager,
With a little bit of gold and a pager,
Searchin my car, lookin for the product.
Thinkin everyone is sellin narcotics." --Rage Against The Machine "Fuck Tha Police"

freedom from misinformation is my favorite freedom (none / 0) (#23)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:20:18 AM EST

which is what privacy, the right to not have to explain every action one takes, protects against [tyranny].

No, that isnt at all what privacy means and you are already well protected against tyranny. I'd hate to see ill thought out privacy laws written to court the approval of a mass of misinformed drones.

I have a fundemental right to walk down the street and not be harassed by society's guardians.

Yes, you do, but that isnt the same as a reasonable expectation of privacy. If you succeed in institutionalizing confusion of the two, then it will be that much easier to revoke both during exceptional circumstances. Here there be dragons.

(And by the way, for everyone's clarification, (a) No one will ever actually pass a law making it legal to conceal wrong doing because - hello - it's illegal to conceal wrong doing, and (b) privacy is not about concealment at all. I dont have to hide a damn thing to have my privacy violated, rightfully or wrongly.)

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Bzzt (none / 0) (#28)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:04:14 PM EST

"No one will ever actually pass a law making it legal to conceal wrong doing because - hello - it's illegal to conceal wrong doing..."

Not only will they, they already have. The Fifth Amendment, for one: "...nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself..."

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
thanks for the insight (none / 0) (#32)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:34:53 PM EST

There's a difference between self-incrimination (being forced to testify against yourself in an Examination Under Oath) and concealment. When in an EUO, you cannot use the 5th as both a shield and a sword. As long as a request is material to the examination, you must surrender evidence (obviously it's not evidence if no one knows about it.) What you cant be forced to do is say, as in words, as in testify, "I pulled the trigger." So much for your tangential understanding of what I wrote.

I did not mean to imply that all criminals should stop what they're doing right now and give themselves up. That would be against the 5th which is merely a restatement an old legal maxim that no man is bound to accuse himself. It is meant as protection against inquisitorial abuse (not exactly uncommon back then) whose m.o. is to force the accused to admit their guilt or make statements supporting that admission. ("Admit it, you collect bat eyelashes and toad juice. Yes I do. Aha, you are a witch!) Nowadays we dont confront people with their guilt, we argue about it between ourselves.

Finally, I know that killers dont get charged with one count murder, one count failing to inform authorities that they are murderers. Duh. Why do you think implication of same should be part of a constitution? Bzzt

You know, I dont really expect you to understand your Constitution, but is it to much to ask that you not herald your ignorance with sound effects. It's really annoying.

Naturally if you remove connotations of 'self' from the original post, not even a vague understanding of the 5th will help you. If you know of a crime, you must report under risk of conspiracy or accessory.

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

that is an NWA song. (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by dr3 on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:53:46 AM EST

jsut fyi rage remade it. like the rage version better then nwa but still had to point it out to you cause im an elitist k5 dickfore.
As Confused as a toddler in a topless bar.
[ Parent ]
Right to Privacy is not an Unalienable Right (4.66 / 3) (#22)
by mami on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:14:38 AM EST

The basic assumption of your article is that Privacy rights are unalienable. They are clearly not. Here the definitions found for the meaning of unalienable (or inalienable) rights.
UNALIENABLE. Incapable of being sold.

Things which are not in commerce, as, public roads, are in their nature unalienable. Some things are unalienable in consequence of particular provisions in the law forbidding their sale or transfer: as, pensions granted by the government. The natural rights of life and liberty are unalienable."


Unalienable... Inalienable; incapable of being aliened, that is, sold and transferred.

Inalienable rights. Rights which can never be abridged because they are so fundamental.

-Black's Inalienable rights.

Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights. Morrison v. State, Mo.App., 252 S.W.2d 97, 101.

Privacy Rights can clearly be transferred, sold and surrendered.

For me, also with regards to Rusty's article, the question remains, what the real difference between unalienable rights, natural rights and socially constructed rights are.

Unalienable rights are the ones which are intertwined with our existence and therefore thought of to be given to us by the Creator in a way that they CAN'T be controlled by us.

Basically, because we are created without our own consent, the right to life is to me a true unalienable right (if we live without having given consent to it, the fact that we should live is not to be taken away in the intention of the creator). Of course we can control our existence and prematurely end our life, if we give consent to it. I see therefore a flaw in the definitions of unalienable rights.

I am getting into conflict believing that the right to liberty is unalienable in the above given definitions. Though we are created equal (and we are equal at the moment of birth), we are definitely not equal the minute after our birth and the fate of our existence with regards to our liberty is the consequence of our socially constructed and therefore alienable rights. All rights we construct are alienable. The only right I would see truly unalienable is the right to life.

The crux of the definitions given for unalienable is that people define it in dependency of the word "consent". If you say unalienable rights are those which can't be transferred, sold or surrendered without the *consent* of the person possessing those rights, than those rights are clearly transferrable and alienable, the moment I consent to it. (I can consent to give up my right to life and my right to liberty). If alienable rights are those you are given by your creator through your mere existence, then those rights shouldn't be dependent on our consent.

I have a major problem to understand the true meaning of natural or unalienable rights. To me these are those which are not socially constructed. Under this assumption only the right to life is unalienable, because we have no control of our births, we have no choice to say no to us being born. But that's a story in itself.

Clearly though Privacy rights don't belong there.

Yeah. (4.66 / 3) (#24)
by trhurler on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:49:04 AM EST

While we're at it, let's get rid of the second, fourth, and fifth amendments; they're just pro-criminal trash anyway. We can also do away with the ban on ex post facto laws, because that just lets criminals get away with their acts because they were quicker than a legislature somewhere. Maybe we should ban the expression of criminal views; after all, nobody but criminals has any use for them. Belonging to a militia is sort of like saying you don't trust your government and might have to attack it, so we need to ban that. Nobody but criminals needs rolling papers, so let's ban those.

Oh, wait, that's fucking stupid. No, sorry, you lose. Rights are not a matter of "opinion." They are not an optimization problem. You don't "adjust" them for the "good of society." We have them because of the kind of animals we are. I would rather see a million criminals go free than one innocent man harassed without justfication. After all, free men can defend themselves better than the police ever do anyway; police are there more to clean up the mess than anything else.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

David Brin and "The Transparent Society" (4.75 / 4) (#27)
by ucblockhead on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:02:31 PM EST

Any discussion of privacy should include David Brin's The Transparent Society. It is essentially a third view of privacy, as opposed to the "everything should be private" camp and the "government needs to watch for criminals" camp.

I don't necessarily agree with it (I still haven't made up my mind after two years, actually) but it raises some points that usually get missed. The most important is that it shows the distinction between individual privacy and the privacy of people in government. It points out the contradiction of those favoring the strongest individual privacy usually demand the most government openness, while those demanding the most individual intrusion usually want the least government openness.

The other important thing that too often gets missed by hardcore privacy advocates (who I usually agree with) is the effect of technology on public places. There was never an expectation of privacy on a public street, or in someone else's house. Convicting a criminal because he was caught by a camera placed to watch a streetcorner is no different, philosophically speaking, from convicting a criminal because he was caught by a cop hiding in the shadows watching the same street corner.

Much "privacy" is like that. I mean, I can put up a webcam at work, but am I losing privacy? Not really. I'm in a public place. Coworkers can see me anyway.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Are you crazy?? (4.66 / 3) (#31)
by DranoK on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:00:17 PM EST

Yeah, privacy activists are trying to protect criminals. Encryption is used to help these people commit their crimes. *shudder*

My own view for privacy:

There is a very thin line between police prosecuting the guilty after a crime was commited, and to some extent preventing crimes based on *REASONABLE CAUSE*, and the idea of invading everyone's privacy to try to catch all criminals before crimes are comitted. Sounds reasonable enough, right? It makes me shudder.

More and more we are moving to a condition of dependence. We will depend on the government to take care of us. The government doesn't trust us, so cameras get installed on every wall. Our movements are tracked so the government will know when we are straying from the path.

I have no police record. To the best of my knowledge, I have never done anything that would even remotely put me in trouble with the police. Even though I have committed no crime, does that mean I should be watched and tracked without my consent?

Do I not have the right to become a criminal? Think about that one, it's an interesting question.

What is a criminal? A criminal is someone who breaks the law. Who writes the laws? In the US at least congress does. So the question is, what happens when you disagree with a law?

Civil Disobedience has always been a great way. Yet without privacy these movements could not have happened. Why? Let's give an example.

Say the Government passed a law banning all books. Without privacy, how would you stand up against this? If you ever were seen with a book, caught on camera, you would be arrested. It would not be possible for you to break the law willingly, as so many great humanitarians have done in the past. You would be a slave to the laws.

But Government will always do what's in the interest of the people, right? If this were true, the US wouldn't even be here today. I doubt anyone could argue the American Revolution was a bad thing. What you need to realize, however, is that these rebels were *BREAKING THE LAW*. They organized their efforts and fought tyrany. Without privacy, this could not have happened.

So let's touch briefly on violent crimes. Violent crimes have been proven time and time again to be commited in the *HEAT OF THE MOMENT*, therefore a lack of privacy will not matter. Cameras will not stop random outbursts of violence. What will they stop? Crimes against which there is no clear victim. Drug deals, for example. They will stop crimes in which no party involved voluntarily notifies the authorities.

A lack of privacy helps only the Government and corporations. I'd like to hear a sucessfull argument as to how losing our privacy will help the public as a whole.

Perhaps we should change the title of 1984 to 2024. We're heading down this path. Every day we give up more privacy, more anonymity, more control over our own lives to larger powers. It won't be long before we have nothing left to give up. By that time, however, we'll be so damn brainwashed it really won't matter, will it?


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence

Why personal information is important (5.00 / 3) (#34)
by jesterzog on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:59:04 PM EST

I'm not sure if it matters specifically in the Microsoft case assuming eLuddite is correct with what was said here.

That aside, I'm very wary of registering anything in recent times. The reason is that I don't want to end up in someone's database since I usually don't automatically trust people and entities to look after them properly. And there's no reason why I should.

If your personal information falls into the wrong hands, someone can really screw up your life. That's one of the ways debt collectors work, by surrupticiously collecting as much information as they can about a person from naive company administration people, then correlating it to build up a profile.

Then there's things like spam and assorted other junkmail. Giving a company your address (email or otherwise) opens the door to that. Once you've given it away, there's no reliable way to take it back again.

Following that is general security. No database is ever going to be 100% secure. (At least that's what I choose to believe.) If someone breaks into a company database and steals your personal information, there's the potential for you to be in trouble. It might be one name in millions, but what happens if the person who steals it start mining the data and building lists of people, their addresses and (possibly estimated) net income, categorising it into locations, and then selling lists of targets on the black market?

There are also the situations where people could be generally interested in you for some reason. The classic response is that "nobody's going to be interested in me", but what if they are? Do we give special extra rights to those with high profiles, or do they have to live with the same lack of privacy as the rest of us? Otherwise talk to the MPAA about their game of whack-a-mole with trying to keep down information that lots of people are interested in.

All of the above, at least, is why I choose not to give personal information to companies these days unless I definitely trust them or it's absolutely necessary. The easiest way to keep information secure is by not giving it away.

jesterzog Fight the light

Rationale for having privacy? (4.25 / 4) (#40)
by winitzki on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:20:13 PM EST

I was born and raised in the USSR, but I've lived in the West for the last 9 years. I know what a police state is like, although the USSR hasn't been so bad in my time (as opposed to, say, the period of 1920 to 1950).

Here in the USA, everyone tells me to guard my social security number and even my taxes and salary figures as "private information." For a while I didn't understand why; but then it turned out that the telephone banking, the mail-order, the online purchasing and many other things work essentially by trust and can be easily abused.

Potential abuse seems to be the first big reason to have privacy. It is "easier" to live in the US, compared with some other countries, but this is at cost of being more open to abuse - not by the government but by malicious private parties.

Secondly, privacy is useful for changing laws de facto. For example, everyone except some over-cautious people or those driving broken cars violates the speed limits or the very strict drunk driving laws.

Most people also have at some time violated the copyright law by making copies of CDs, tapes, books and so on - for their own use, of course, but doesn't every book prohibit copying of any kind? Look at CD burner devices, how they are advertized: "now you can start your own digital library!" The packages frequently include MP3 making software and so on. This seems to suggest that you will own the copyright on what you burn, in other words, everyone who has a "digital library" is either an extremely prolific writer, a musician, or a film maker.

Privacy (i.e., Micro$#!t does not know what is on the CDs you burned) allows you to violate the laws that are either too strict to be useful, or are geared too far away from the public benefit.

my 2c

Why do we need privacy? | 47 comments (46 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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