[cryptography] Define Privacy

Maarten Billemont lhunath at lyndir.com
Wed Oct 22 00:40:02 EDT 2014


> On Oct 21, 2014, at 22:22, Jason Iannone <jason.iannone at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> 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.
> 
> [1]http://www.juliecohen.com/attachments/File/CohenWhatPrivacyIsFor.pdf
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Without any reference, it is my understanding that privacy is very much a luxury right, not unlike education, which grants us the freedom to perform at our individual best when not alone and contemplate, experience and learn all the "wrong" paths away from the unforgiving blind judgement that is inevitable in a society of men.

To unpack that slightly, privacy is very much a low-priority benefit, one that comes far behind keeping fed and physically healthy.  It is often first out the door when sacrifices are being made with only minor short-term damage to the society.

Privacy's benefits are very much long-term, and mainly favour individualism in the sense that it allows the individual to develop their own self, their own views, and their own solutions to societal and other problems.  These benefits are highly praised in individualistic societies but hardly a necessity for any society to operate.

Privacy is optional in a society geared toward pushing values; such as those strictly governed by religious principles (eg. Roman Catholic), economic or militaristic goals (eg. Total War), and desirable in societies open to exploration, the sciences and new understandings.

In the absence of privacy, people tend to fall in line.

Dreams and their many benefits are in my opinion proof that the human psyche needs and thrives on privacy.

I've read others defining privacy as "a withdrawal for the sake of making life with others bearable", in the sense that privacy is truly necessary only when the only alternative would be a personal conflict[1].

[1]http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2775779 <http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2775779>(The Social Psychology of Privacy, Barry Schwartz)

— Maarten Billemont (lhunath) —
me: http://www.lhunath.com <http://www.lhunath.com/> – business: http://www.lyndir.com <http://www.lyndir.com/> – http://masterpasswordapp.com <http://masterpasswordapp.com/>
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