poly: Re: privacy etc

From: d.brin <brin@cts.com>
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 01:46:10 PDT

Greg Burch said (re: my new book, The Transparent Society):

>I'm sure David makes the point in the later parts of the book, but it seems to
>me that there are some (perhaps very few) processes that are made LESS
>efficient by transparency, or where transparency is inconsistent with the
>value of liberty, which he seems to posit as more fundamental than the vale of
>privacy in its various forms.
>One such that has come to my mind is a matter of privacy with which I deal
>every day, that being the attorney-client privilege. This happens to be in
>the forefront of my thinking right now because the values placed on the
>privacy of a person's communication with her legal counselor are key issues in
>one of my biggest current cases.

I definitely do go into this matter, and I eagerly concede the importance
of such veils. I also emphasize that they are STRONGER in a mostly-open
world, because violators of confidentiality should be caught. A client can
only have faith in his lawyer's reputation for confidentiality if the word
REPUTATION still has meaning.

>It has been my experience that the attorney-client privilege in fact
>ultimately encourages honesty and morality in public actions because,
>sheltered by a "cone of silence" people will work through scenarios with their
>lawyers that they do not feel secure in discussing with anyone else. Thus
>protected, the lawyer-as-counselor has opportunities to deter illegal or
>harmful conduct not afforded to others. This deterence does not depend on
>some fictional superior moral character for lawyers, but rather simply because
>the privilege creates an environment in which people can clearly see the
>consequences of alternative courses of action.

I agree with this.

>Similar rationales exist for confidentiality of communication with
>psychotherapists. I wonder what the advocates of "radical transparency" say
>of such "islands of privacy" -- ones that are protected because they seem to
>ENHANCE "virtue", rather than detract from it?

I wouldn't know. I have found only 3 examples of radical transparency
proponents, and they are easily as silly as the cryptos and strong privacy
fetishists. The Transparent Society is verifiably a book about moderate
        If the world happened to be transfixed with fanatical openness, my
book would be seen as a tract promoting crypto! But as things are, the
opposite mania reigns. The Transparent Society only appears 'radically'
open compared to the lemming-like stampede toward secrecy that seems to
grip the entire cyber community, in defiance of all history, reason, or
knowledge of human nature.
        When the kneejerk response to any modern problem is to try somehow
to prevent other people from knowing things, you know you're dealing from a
flawed premise, whether the chosen method is law or technology, it boils
down to the same thing... a technique that can be justified under rare
circumstances, but which is generally a rather filthy and self-defeating

Hal Finney writes: >>
Let us suppose that cameras blanket public spaces, with full access to
them by everyone. This is a huge blow to privacy: everywhere you go,
everyone you meet and everything you do in public is universally
known. Everyone will know who your friends are, whose house you
visit, who you go out on dates with.<<

I've answered this many times. We already have vast privacy in public
places like restaurants because of the deterrence that open visibility lets
us enforce on blatant eavesdroppers & peepers.
        Hal ignores the effectiveness of openness as a weapon for defense.
I've run into this before, on the Nym list, where the cryptos there
universally saw the 6th amendment as serving the interests of government,
instead of as the immensely powerful weapon for freedom that it is.
        Again, it is not what others know about you that matters. I have
no right to police the contents of others' minds. It's what they DO with
that knowledge that threatens me & my family. And to defend against
hostile actions I need as much knowledge about others as I can possibly
        If that means that -- in return -- they know enough about me to
prevent me from harming them??? So be it!

I'm the untrusting paranoid here. I've never met such trusting people as
the cryptos, who'd trust their fate to unproved technologies and elites who
just happen not to be government officials.

Hal goes on: >>
Even with regard to physical interactions which require public travel,
if they can be replaced with online communication, then there is no
reason to expect that the interaction will be made public. There are
no proposals for infrastructures to record and publish the names of
everyone we are communicating with via email. Even with today's
imperfect security, there are no immediate on-line threats equivalent
to the universal public cameras in the physical realm. This doesn't
require strong cryptographic pseudonyms and protocols which must
defeat the NSA, just ordinary online communications with perhaps some
small security enhancements over what we have today, so as to keep
ordinary online interactions from becoming public knowledge.<<

All of this assumes the PGP packages lack back doors and the remailers
aren't all NSA fronts. SUch frail assumptions! I'd rather force ALL
bastards to walk naked.

>>If we got to the
point where everyone stayed home all the time and interacted solely
via virtual reality holodecks then public cameras wouldn't be much of
a threat to privacy.<<

A horrible world. And guys with alligator clips would eventually rule.

Note: a wide reanging discussion of these issues will commence about June 1
at crit.org. Hal is one of my brightest adversaries and I'd love to have
him + Nick + Robin + etc attend.

See below:


From: Chris Peterson <peterson@foresight.org>
To Privacy & Openness discussants:

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Received on Tue May 19 08:43:07 1998

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