[cryptography] Define Privacy

Jason Iannone jason.iannone at gmail.com
Tue Oct 21 22:22:48 EDT 2014

On a fundamental level I wonder why privacy is important and why we
should care about it.  Privacy advocates commonly cite pervasive
surveillance by businesses and governments as a reason to change an
individual's behavior.  Discussions are stifled and joking references
to The List are made.  The most relevant and convincing issues are
documented cases of chilled expression from authors, artists,
activists, and average Andrews.  Other concerns deal with abuse, ala
LOVEINT, etc.  Additional arguments tend to be obfuscated by nuance
and lack any striking insight.

The usual explanations, while appropriately concerning, don't do it
for me.  After scanning so many articles, journal papers, and NSA
surveillance documents, fundamental questions remain: What is privacy?
 How is it useful?  How am I harmed by pervasive surveillance?  Why do
I want privacy (to the extent that I'm willing to take operational
measures to secure it)?

I read a paper by Julie Cohen for the Harvard Law Review called What
Privacy is For[1] that introduced concepts I hadn't previously seen on
paper.  She describes privacy as a nebulous space for growth.  Cohen
suggests that in private, we can make mistakes with impunity.  We are
self-determinate and define our own identities free of external
subjective forces.  For an example of what happens without the
impunity and self-determination privacy provides, see what happens
when popular politicians change their opinions in public.  I think
Cohen's is a novel approach and her description begins to soothe some
of my agonizing over the topic.  I'm still searching.


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