The Value of Privacy

Last week, revelation of yet another NSA surveillance effort against the American people has rekindled the privacy debate. Those in favor of these programs have trotted out the same rhetorical question we hear every time privacy advocates oppose ID checks, video cameras, massive databases, data mining, and other wholesale surveillance measures: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Watch someone long enough, and you'll find something to arrest -- or just blackmail -- with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies -- whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility of their being and their cause. Of course being watched in your own home was unreasonable. Watching at all was an act so unseemly as to be inconceivable among gentlemen in their day. You watched convicted criminals, not free citizens. You ruled your own home. It's intrinsic to the concept of liberty.

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on? Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant-message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

A version of this essay originally appeared on Wired.com.

EDITED TO ADD (5/24): Daniel Solove comments.

Posted on May 19, 2006 at 12:00 PM • 105 Comments

Comments

Captain BananasMay 19, 2006 12:17 PM

Spot on observation. Unfortunately, the founding fathers could not have predicted the level of technology we possess and its implications for the erosion of privacy.

What we need is a constitutional amendment explicitly providing a right to privacy rather than Roe v. Wade, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Mike CatMay 19, 2006 12:29 PM

Excellent sir, that is the right way to phrase this debate! But the big obstacle is the use of fear to make people feel less secure and willing to give up their liberty. What is the best way to fix that problem?

It is so easy in our human society to manipulate the fear reaction and pull debate down into the gutter. If we can somehow force people to be objective about their feelings of fear and understand why they are this way, it would go a long way to improve the situation.

From the Illuminatus Trillogy, Bob Wilson talks about the "fnords". They are imaginary words, visible only to the subconsciouse and implanted in news stories and broadcasts to create a feeling of stress and anxiety.

We are being pummeled with fnords at the moment, so how do we break out of the flight / fight reaction of fear?? I think that is the surest route to stopping the petty tyranny of slavery through surveillance.

Joe BuckMay 19, 2006 12:38 PM

The real danger in programs like the NSA data mining is that they are likely to be much better for disrupting opposition political movements, or labor organizing, than for finding terrorists. The terrorists already expect that they are being monitored, and they often maintain a cell structure, with very restricted communication between cells.

Consider, however, political demonstrations, like anti-WTO protests or demonstrations at political conventions. These kinds of movements normally consist of 95% people just expressing their freedom of speech, 4% or so who might engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, and 1% people who might be up to some more serious vandalism. What you do (if you're are a Nixon-like control freak who wants to keep the unruly mobs away from the boss) is to use the 1% as a justification to turn on your son-of-total-information-awareness system, then use the calling patterns to identify the leaders of the movement. A few days before the convention, WTO meeting, or whatever, the leaders are all swept off the streets. The bus companies they hired to bring activists to the convention get served with orders not to supply busses to the alleged criminals.

If you're running China, these kinds of tools are exactly what you need to prevent dissidents from organizing.

Swiss ConnectionMay 19, 2006 1:08 PM

Thank you Bruce, once again you have paraphrased hundreds of your blog comments and your own thoughts on this nicely and powerfully.

Basically privacy is about human dignity and protection of property, the former is a basic human right and the latter the cause of many wars and much upheaval. Yet, both of these characteristics are what make our civilization so unique and powerful. But if the wealthy, the very few who own most of what there is to own on this planet, abuse these principals for their own pleasure and selfish greed, then the rest of the planet has to fight back by raising the collective consciousness with respect to the points raised by this article. Every voice counts!

MatMay 19, 2006 1:17 PM

I'm afraid I'm not quite so enthusiastic about this essay, because I still think it skips over the heart of the matter; if you've got nothing to hide, why do you hide it? Privacy protects us from abuse only when there is something that we are ashamed of that could be used to abuse us. If I'm not doing anything wrong, surely my best strategy is to make everything I do totally public? I want privacy in the toilet, not because anyone's going to blackmail me with the startling truth that I urinate, but for some other reason that you haven't really defined. What am I scared of? At base, all you've come up with here is "it's a basic human need".

To more accurately pinpoint it, I think it comes down to the fact that one person's impression of another is gleaned only from a few key facts. That guy wore a sharp suit, had a couple of interesting points to make in the meeting that made me think, and has a mole on his right cheek. I'm pretty much going to use those three facts to make all my future decisions about that person, so it's crucial from their point of view that I see the right three facts.

If someone comes to a business meeting wearing not a sharp suit, but their bondage gear from the night before, then all of my three facts are going to be something along the lines of "holy god, did you see that freak in the bondage gear?" In much the same way, if I google his name the night before and find dozens of pictures of him wearing said bondage gear, that's all I'm going to remember. It'll completely obliterate the interesting points he made that made me think, and that'll put the kibosh on the rest of our business relationship.

Privacy matters because it's fairer to allow each individual to control their own public face than to leave it to chance, to society at large, or to some governmental authority. And I'll bet that's part of the evolutionary reason that we've developed this "basic human need" in the first place.

PhilMay 19, 2006 1:22 PM

Alternatively, Who Will Watch The Watchmen?

The answer is, of course, the Watchmen themselves. That alone should show how ridiculous the argument for constant surveillance is, but fear is a powerful motivator, and the illusion of safety makes it doubly so.

PublicusMay 19, 2006 1:23 PM

@Joe Buck
"If you're running China, these kinds of tools are exactly what you need to prevent dissidents from organizing."
Not just China by any means.
Were the Congress to have brains (and balls), it is exactly this that would be centered on in any investigation.
For example,
Question: "With this system could you locate everyone who wrote or called their congressman to oppose Bill 123? And all their friends and contacts?"

phoenixMay 19, 2006 1:31 PM

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin.

Thanks, Bruce.

TomMay 19, 2006 1:43 PM

Mat -

I can appreciate your point of view, however, I will respectfully disagree on one basic point - choice. The person who posts pictures of him/herself that is then indexed by a search engine has done so by choice. If you choose to make everything that you do in the public eye, that is your choice. I personally believe what Bruce is referring to is the fact that soon, if things continue in the same vein, no one will have a choice. As more technology savvy individuals, we realize the implications of this now. How long will it take the majority of voting Americans to realize the same thing? Is it easier in the long run to defend a choice we still have or wait until the rest of America realizes what they have lost and have to fight to get it back?

AleMay 19, 2006 1:44 PM

I think that much of the rhetoric that has been used to justify the current disregard for people's privacy within the US government is based on myths (in Roland Barthes' sense).

One of these myths is that surveillance is necessary because without it the next terrorist attack will not be detected while in planning stage. The symbolic undercurrent of this is that the government has infallible, almost magical machines that could find the terrorists wherever they are hiding, if only we could provide them with enough information. In essence, the people believe that data mining technology can be made to answer our queries like an oracle, and the only way to make it work is to relinquish control over their own personal, private information.

Thus, people now believe that each piece of data that they allow the government to plunder will be fundamental to thwart the next terrorist attack.

This is simply not the case. And, unfortunately, whatever the government takes from the people will be very difficult to reclaim. Every time that fear (in conjunction with people's dismal assesment of risk) is used to justify invasive measures, democracy gives one step backwards.

Davi OttenheimerMay 19, 2006 1:45 PM

Well said. Good review but I am surprised not to see some sort of call to action or "what you should do". How exactly do you recommend one champion privacy. Start a blog?

Speaking of people who champion things, are you certain that the issue was "so alien to the framers of the Constitution"? Was the omission of overt privacy protection really from ignorance of threat or just placed in such a different context that unfortunately has been quietly left to misinterpretation?

The way I've heard the story told is that the specific mention of privacy is dated but nonetheless present in the Constitution. Imagine technology and living in the 1770s, and then refer to Article I Section 8 Clause 7: Congress shall have the power "To establish Post Offices and post Roads;"

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the concept (from the Second Continental Congress) of a federal mail system. Would it be fair to say that his concern was with proper handling of communications, to include privacy?

Might be worth a visit here to find out:
http://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/text/franklin.html

As an aside, there's an interesting editorial from McIntyre in the Morning called "An Apology from a Bush Voter" that has a rather specific call to action:

"It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I’m all wet about everything I’ve just said. But I’m putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don’t say any of this lightly. I’ve thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means we’re on our own to save this magnificent country. The United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and it’s rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable."

MatMay 19, 2006 1:54 PM

Tom -

I completely agree, perhaps I didn't make my point clear enough. As long as people have the ability to control what shows up in public, then they still have privacy. But when indexes are made without their authorisation, or even knowledge, then that privacy is taken away from them.

So if pictures of me in bondage gear are on my own website, I still have my privacy. If those pictures turn up on some other website, without my permission, I've lost my privacy.

The problem with the NSA index is that the next meeting I have might be with an NSA official, and I'd have no idea what they know about me. *That's* what scares me.

Davi OttenheimerMay 19, 2006 1:54 PM

Oh, and I forgot to mention Franklin's role in the Committee of Secret Correspondence at the Second Continental Congress:

http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_world_spies.html

Don't you think as the first Postmaster General he was thinking about risk and a system that would be less susceptible to loss of privacy? Or was the only solution of the day to expect people to use caution in the form of encryption, blind-drops, and invisible inks?

GeorgeMay 19, 2006 1:55 PM

Another issue here is how government surveillance can erode democratic institutions. ABC news recently report on the tracking of reporters phone calls in order to root out leeks (http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/federal_source_.html and http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/fbi_acknowledge.html). If the intelligence community is going to continue to act at the whim of the administration as seems so from General Hayden’s confirmation testimony, we should be worrying about the reality of a free press and free elections (what is stopping those in control from monitoring the phone traffic of their political opponents or any other voices of dissent). I agree you about the importance of personal privacy but the issues of government surveillance out of control go way beyond this.

SaxonMay 19, 2006 1:58 PM

@Mat

The problem comes when, although you think nothing you have done is wrong, I (who am surveilling you) think what you did was wrong and use my position of authority to punish you for it. In any society, we designate persons to determine/enforce what is and isn't wrong because the fabric of society would crumble were everyone to make their own determination of right and wrong. But when those persons are also given the opportunity to go looking for wrongs wherever they wish, conflicts of interest come up. You don't want your police to write the laws they enforce, particularly if they can do so whenever they wish. Humans just aren't reliable enough.

As Cardinal Richlieu noted, anyone can find something wrong with something someone else did, if they look hard enough. All it takes is one insecure person in a position of authority to abuse that authority for their own purposes, because they didn't like you or felt threatened by your independence/knowledge/whatever (I worked for a guy like that once). If there is an inherent right to privacy, the authorities have to have a damn good (to say nothing of well-defined and specifically limited) reason before they can go looking into your affairs.

Davi OttenheimerMay 19, 2006 2:11 PM

"What we need is a constitutional amendment explicitly providing a right to privacy"

Hmmmm, this seems strangely opposite to what a famous author once said in a book called Applied Cryptography:

"It is insufficient to protect ourselves with laws. We need to protect ourselves with mathematics."

IWantPrivacyMay 19, 2006 2:14 PM

@Tom
Mat never said how the images got there ;-)

Was privacy a foriegn concept to the founders? See 4th Amendment and all its meanings found since then. As much as I agree with the right to privacy, I am torn...

I'd like to ask the question: Would you be open to this if the judgement of your actions was taken out of the equation? If you weren't judged by your acts of bondage, then would you really mind if people knew you were into it?

People say it is "human nature to judge." I say BS. Human nature is mainly a factor of your environment. If you are raised to accept others choices, then their actions don't affect you.

I'm not talking about illegal actions (abuse, making illegal drugs in their home), I'm talking about about the choices of bondage, same gender relationships, picking your nose, etc.

Privacy is a misconception. Your thoughts are the only thing that are truly private. When you write them, or speak them, there is a chance they could be heard.

Does anyone know if there's been a case where someone was in an empty room talking about a crime they committed and this was overheard? Would that be evidence was thrown out? Would all searches after that be deamed "Fruit of the poisonous tree"?

And for those that worry about the types of laws that might come into affect.. What about a lot of those that already are? I don't see nearly as much movement to get those old laws off the books as there is to protect new ones? But I guess as a democracy we don't have as much control over our laws as we thought.

MatMay 19, 2006 2:44 PM

Saxon:

While I agree that you're describing a very real danger to our civil liberties, the problem is that the counter-argument isn't, on the face of it, unreasonable. If the government is truly totalitarian, then there's nowhere to hide. But the current US government manifestly isn't truly totalitarian, and arguing that it is just makes us look like maniacs. Several bloggers have pointed out that both the FISA judges and members of congress (from both parties) knew about the NSA activities. Surely there's enough checks and balances there? And if we gave FISA a veto on the whole thing then that would cover all our bases, right? Where's the argument that the fundamental right to privacy has to trump everything, including the NSA's ability to do its job?

I'm trying to articulate an argument that, indeed, the right to privacy is important, regardless of how much judicial or congressional oversight is provided. The argument is essentially that I need privacy in order to conduct my routine, day-to-day life, and privacy depends on my being in control of my own public face.

royMay 19, 2006 2:51 PM

"If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

If my employer can secretly monitor all my attempts to find a better job elsewhere, and then sabotage each of them, is the pursuit of happiness now a crime?

Worse yet, the government would almost certainly never catch my employer spying on me, and in the rare event they did there would be no punishment.

Still worse, the government would likely be a participant in the espionage, giving my employer access to its data mining in return for other goods and services no judge in his right mind would issue a warrant for. Or any judge in his wrong mind.

Tom DavisMay 19, 2006 2:59 PM

While I agree entirely with the sentiment of your essay, I must disagree that "Because you might do something wrong with my information" implies any desire to hide wrongdoing on the speakers part. It is in fact exactly the reason that we don't won't surveillance cameras in restroom stalls (the watchers might be using it incorrectly to get their jollies, or to sell, or to blackmail me that they will make it public). It is exactly the reason that I don't supply my Social Security Number to private companies (like a doctor's office) unless there is a very good reason (a temp or other worker might choose to use my date of birth and SSN to hijack my financial identity or to provide false identification to a criminal).

I must also point out that adding a constitutional amendment would have no effect. There are in fact provisions in the US Constitution and amendments which restrict the federal government from doing anything not explicitly authorized and there is certainly no authorization for welfare or Social Security or the creation of PBS, or even for the regulation of airwaves or food and drugs. The US Constitution also provides that the " right to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed" and yet there are many federal laws which do infringe that right. The problem is, of course, that the US no longer has a written constitution any more than do the British. The Courts have taken the position that the written constitution is not in fact the supreme law of the land, as provided for in that very same Constitution, but that the legislature may pass laws which violate the Constitution so long as that legislation meets certain and varying tests.

And I must point out, that laws do not prevent government officials from undertaking any particular endeavor, but merely provide for some relief for the victim and possibly though not often when its a government official, for punishment of the abusers after the fact. The legality of holding US citizens as enemies combatant without any rights has not been established, yet it happens. The use of IRS audits as a bullying tactic is certainly a breach of due process, but Nixon used it against those on his enemies list.

Barn DoorMay 19, 2006 3:12 PM

IMHO, we need an explicit law making clear what rights to information privacy we as
Americans expect.

Personally, I never would have expected that the US gov't had a right to maintain a database of my private calling activity unless I was suspected of a crime.

But beyond that, corporations can legally amass similarly all-seeing databases, and there is very little legal foundation in place to protect us from the use of that information.

We have HIPPA to protect our medical information privacy, but this is weak. And it does not protect our DNA information from use by our gov't. (Some uses are legitimate.)

I understand that in Germany there are specific information privacy laws in place, at least with respect to companies' use of customer information. I wish we had something like that here.

But I don't really have any hope of a sensible debate on information privacy issues happening, much less a decent law getting made. In the mean time, the horses are leaving the barn.

Pat CahalanMay 19, 2006 3:17 PM

@ Barn Door

I think the proper way to define privacy is not "this is what is expected to be private". That largely depends upon the individual in question.

The right way to define privacy (wrt legal issues, at least) is, "this is what sorts of information can be gathered by which types of institutions (including the government), and this is the acceptable ways in which this information can be shared/used/etc, and ALL OTHER USES are considered in violation of statute."

If we try to make a solid defintion of "private" information (in a legal sense, not logical sense), in 10 or 15 or 50 years the definition will be outdated and the law will not be effective.

Instead, say, "this is what we regard as acceptable uses of private information" and state that non-acceptable uses are big no-nos, with nice big felony charges and fines and such.

Rich GibbsMay 19, 2006 3:40 PM

Well said. As you know, this is not a new phenomenon:

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt, House of Commons, 18 Nov. 1783.

MargheriteMay 19, 2006 4:31 PM

There are anthropological and psychological studies from the 50's and 60's that document very carefully a phenomenon called "observer effect". Depending upon the community or individual being observed, the corruption of healthy behavior ranged from subtle to extreme and perverted. This can of worms being opened by a relatively benign form of surveillance (compared with, say, GPS locators mounted to our cars or cameras in our bedrooms) is predictably foul; but none of us can predict the direction that reactive behavior trends will go. Observer effect could lead to mass depression or mass violence or mass obscenities just as likely as it could lead to mass protest. This is reckless social engineering, not just surveillance or data mining. Maybe the way to fight it is lawsuits based on an obviously depraved indifference to a predictable and previously documented outcome, corrupted behavior.

Andre LePlumeMay 19, 2006 4:32 PM

Providing counterpoint to Bruce's essay is major-league horse's ass (and US Senator) Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas:

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties, but you have no civil liberties if you are dead."

That is the distillation of cowardice.

SaxonMay 19, 2006 4:58 PM

@Mat-

As I said, I don't have a problem with the government performing surveillance, per se, so long as they can't do it whenever they want. Our position should be "You the government have no right or reason to look at what I am doing. If you have reasonable suspicion that I am doing something wrong, prove it before a (presumably unbiased) judge, and they then will give you permission to look at only those things that you think I am doing wrong." We must always be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

MercMay 19, 2006 5:07 PM

Here is the irony. This administration is the most secretive and unaccountable to the People upon whom they are spying.

quincunxMay 19, 2006 6:30 PM

The only reason there is a discussion on this topic is because legal procedures on privacy are directed by a monopoly organization (the state). So everyone must dispense their opinion as to the best course of action, a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

Get rid of the monopoly organization, and let free market competition in private law create a polycentric legal system that will serve you best.

If you think that your agency is not respecting your privacy - well you can sue them with an another and/or withdraw from their services.

Don't for a minute think that you can control this monopoly with the proper legislation. That is the saddest joke that people still believe.

And don't trot out the Constitution. That thing is a historical artifact, a dead letter. Although it has been used for good argument - it's interpretation and enforcement is in control of the monopoly that purports to follow it, but in fact does not.

You can't have a government and have privacy. Period.

Pat CahalanMay 19, 2006 6:42 PM

@ quincunx

Is your response to every thread that you comment on going to be, "The Government is evil, we need Anarchy"? And if it is, how is that related to security?

Do you really think that the absence of a governmental structure is going to result in a stable and more secure society?

quincunxMay 19, 2006 7:25 PM

"Is your response to every thread that you comment on going to be, "The Government is evil, we need Anarchy"? And if it is, how is that related to security?"

You honestly don't see the connection to security?

What is the most important thing to secure? I would think your self, your livelyhood. Then I would say your property. Combine the effort of the first to the second - and your have your personal wealth and livelyhood.

"Security" & "Privacy" is respect for private property. These words don't have meaning without it.

Having private property - you want a polycentric legal system that offers you CHOICE, that allows you to maximize your wealth and happiness, without conflict. My argument is that the state creates conflict by its very nature because it eliminates choice and employs the old barbaric ways of coercion and compulsion.

Interestingly, the usual rationate for why monopolies are bad: quality goes down, prices go up, are somehow never related to the biggest monopoly of them all.

It is important, as Bruce agrees, to discuss law along with security. If you focus on only one aspect of security: how to prevent others from knowing secrets, or gaining access, and not on the law aspect: what happens before/after one gains secrets or access, then you totally eliminate what has been the concept of 'security' for eons: private property concept.

"Do you really think that the absence of a governmental structure is going to result in a stable and more secure society?"

That depends on what you mean by "government structure". If you mean free market organizations, like insurance protection companies, who will be funded voluntarily, or "free governments" that have no territorial monopoly then YES, you will get a stable and more secure society.

If you mean a monopoly that purports to protect your property by expropriating your property in the first place (taxes) - then this obvious contradiction, that I think any rational human can see (unless severely philosophically corrupted by parents or teachers) will lead one to say NO, this will not result in a stable and secure society.

MikeMay 19, 2006 8:05 PM

Thus speaks the "uncommunist"...

The only place on earth your ideas exist is in Somalia or in 1980's Lebanon.

Indeed, the models of happiness and security. Someone here is severely philisophically corrupted, but it isn't Pat...

quincunxMay 19, 2006 8:31 PM

Mike,

Your statements are equivalent to a person in the 16th century claiming that we'll never have democratic republics, and then citing that the only places 'my' ideas exist is in Switzerland.
Then telling me that disagreeing with the King & his court makes me philosophically corrupt - for I must see that he must be right because of his noble birth.

"Thus speaks the "uncommunist"...

What the hell is that even supposed to mean? You can be anti-communist, but that would be rather stupid to point out - since most people in the world are anti-communist.

" Someone here is severely philisophically corrupted, but it isn't Pat..."

So, Mike, you do think that aggression is the best way to solve problems? Be honest.

LaurenMay 19, 2006 9:16 PM

I am not a paranoid person, I live a pretty "average" life; I commit no crimes; I have no plans to. Yet it seems to me that privacy matters to me 20x more than anyone I know. For example: there's a tollroad in the large city where I live, and I don't use a toll-tag, because it's a direct record of my whereabouts, one I can't avoid with a tag because I'm not given the choice to pre-pay without personal records attached. So, it's long lines & quarters for me.

I don't participate in supermarket member-cards because the card would record all I buy there and match it to my name. I would think aggregate info not matched to personal records would be sufficient for marketing research (ie; assign me a random number, never match it to my personal info, but their records would show person 109348343 buys x, y and z.) But no.

I don't think any of this information would ever land me in any trouble. And unlike most posts here which are supremely articulate, I have trouble explaining why the entire concept matters to me this much.

But even with a wonderfully-written blog from someone who can articulate what I can't, followed by genius comments from all angles about why privacy is important.... Michael Hayden is going to roll right into his spot, and no one around me as far as my eye can see seems to give a shit, much less think anything can be done about it. The domestic phone-call "scandal" is good for a few conversations at the water cooler.

Meanwhile, here I am, avoiding toll-tags.

Feels really hopeless.

MarkoMay 19, 2006 10:27 PM

Bruce makes great points about the importance of privacy.

However, he is wrong about the Framers. The Federalist papers were published under a psuedonym, which clearly shows the authors understood the importance of privacy.

I understand the need to try to explain why the US Constitution does not explicitly declare the "right to privacy", but I do not agree with Bruce's reason.

Vilmos SotiMay 20, 2006 12:19 AM

> Widespread police surveillance is the very
> definition of a police state.

Another definition (or at least in my mind) is when the police can stop me on the street for no reason "just to check".

Vilmos

DschoMay 20, 2006 6:24 AM

My favourite answer to "If you do not have to hide anything [...]":

"If YOU do not have to hide anything, please take off your clothes NOW!"

It is very surprising how hard it is, to explain why hiding your naked body is different from hiding your personal things, or your financial records, or your thoughts.

JimMay 20, 2006 7:43 AM

The dangerous life? "I would rather have freedom with danger than slavery with ease." Some problems are bigger than others. It's never been easy, at least for me. You don't know me, but you know what I mean.

Simon@AutoUpdate+May 20, 2006 9:47 AM

To get back on track, the original topic is whether the government has a right to say "spying is undertaken for your own benefit, and if you have nothing to hide then you should have no issues with these actions". To which I would query whether you can switch seats at the table and say to the government "you are undertaking many actions in secret, so unless you are hiding something why not act things out in the open". I think switching seats at the table is an interesting proposal, yet while most governments would claim no evil, none would ever allow themselves to be spied upon due to their own need for privacy. So it seems like privacy is really a one way requirement - I don't trust you, so you must prove yourself honest by allowing your privacy to be exposed, while you must trust me because I am a figure of higher power and better judgement.

AfroblancoMay 20, 2006 11:23 AM

I see a definite parallel between NSA wiretapping and the DMCA legislation. Both are cases of power-hungry politicians using the public's lack of knowledge about technology to pass laws that would never get passed otherwise.

It's endlessly frustrating to me how apathetic the average American is about these issues. If they had any idea what they were agreeing to, they would make a MUCH bigger stink.

BarnabyKMay 20, 2006 12:46 PM

...so what is the 'endgame', objective, or ultimate result of all the current American government surveillance & data collection efforts ??

At what point {..if any} will government officials say they have 'enough' information about the citizenry -- and that no further expansion of data collection & analysis is needed or wanted ?

Has anyone in the current American government stated that the government has enough information .. and is now satisfied {???} -- of course NOT -- there are instead continuous urgings & programs to accelerate the data collection !

The government has no clear objective -- only that they want ever more surveillance & control of their American subjects.


[ "It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.
There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern.
They promise to be good masters -- but they mean to be masters. "]

{-- Daniel Webster}

======================

Peter PearsonMay 20, 2006 1:03 PM

Ironically, many of the people currently most vocal about the importance of privacy are among those most enthusiastic about extending the regulatory powers of government into the minute details of our lives. It seems that to many it's appropriate to give federal agents the power to regulate the flush volume of my toilet (true case), provided we deny them enough information. Sort of like giving every policeman a nuclear bazooka, but protecting ourselves by blinding him.

Are you worried about what the Feds know, or about the wicked things they might do because of that knowledge? I fear what they might do, not what they might know. Let's forbid them to do wicked things, rather than forbidding them to know.

Bruce SchneierMay 20, 2006 1:08 PM

"My favourite answer to 'If you do not have to hide anything [...]': 'If YOU do not have to hide anything, please take off your clothes NOW!'"

I ask: how much money do you earn?

Bruce SchneierMay 20, 2006 1:46 PM

"Hmmmm, this seems strangely opposite to what a famous author once said in a book called Applied Cryptography: 'It is insufficient to protect ourselves with laws. We need to protect ourselves with mathematics.'"

I corrected that statement in the beginning of Secrets & Lies.

NestorMay 20, 2006 2:42 PM

I do not believe privacy is an inherent right. In fact, we as social animals have chosen to live amongst each other at the expense of privacy. The more we chose to live in a society, the more privacy we voluntarily give up. Living together means we value each others company more then privacy.
I also agree with Peter above. It is not the loss of privacy that we fear most, but what evil the government will do with the knowledge. Government is not restricted from doing evil because of privacy rights. Government is limited because of the dilution of power in a free society. That is why comparisons with Cardinal Richelieu, Saddam Hussein and others are inappropriate. Our leaders are able to do what they do because people follow their orders. Our culture and educational system does not breed automatons that follow blindly. Ask any Government manager if their employees would follow whatever they ordered them to do. Our greatest check and balance is the thousands of professionals who actually carry out the business of the government and military. As long as we strive for the most educated, diverse and independent government workforce on Earth, your precious privacy will be safe because the people actually entrusted with it, could not care less about your lovemaking, bathroom habits and singing in the shower. We are not free because Bush and Heyden allow us to be. Although they may be some of the most powerful men on earth, they're not as powerful as you think. We are free because by and large your government is run day to day by your neighbors and countrymen who love their country as much as you do. As long as we attract that kind of person to our government and military, we will continue to be free, in spite of the politicians we allow to give speeches.

VQFMay 20, 2006 9:25 PM

For an answer about the importance of privacy, see the following information from Katherine Albrecht of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.) Among other things, she talks about how people naturally avoid certain behaviors around others.

The information is at:
http://www.nocards.org/faq/faq_04.shtml

JungsonnMay 21, 2006 8:44 AM

Today i heard that data retention in my country (The netherlands) is a fact. Our ministers have agreed with the U.S. too hand over all data: phone, internet, etc.
No more privacy.

for more info:

wiki.dataretentionisnosolution.com

JDMay 21, 2006 11:25 PM

"...revelation of yet another NSA surveillance effort against the American people has rekindled the privacy debate."

More accurate would be to say that inflammatory propaganda rhetoric like the statement above has again stirred up paranoia in this blog about government surveillance. NSA, whatever its sins and failings, does not conduct "effort against the American people." What is appalling is the damage to NSA's capabilities to collect against enemies of the American people as a result of irresponsible media hype and politician grandstanding.

Dave HoweMay 22, 2006 1:34 AM

My favourite response to "If you haven't done anything wrong, what have you got to hide?" is usually to ask for naked pictures of their wife; however, I find in cases like this it is more convenient to ask if this means *the government* knew it was doing something wrong - given they invariably hide these programs from even most of government, never mind the people......

MGMay 22, 2006 2:42 AM

While the government is at it, why doesn't it revoke the 5th amendment. After all, if you have done nothing wrong, and have nothing to hide, why would you need the right to remain silent?

KendalMay 22, 2006 7:23 AM

Firstly, well written Bruce, I applaud your work here.

I can help but feel frustrated, knowing that our 'leaders' are selling security at the price of privacy.

How can I protect my privacy, and advocate privacy, without drawing suspicion?

Does anybody have any good ideas about challenging this paradigm?

AleMay 22, 2006 8:14 AM

@Nestor:

"Our leaders are able to do what they do because people follow their orders ... Our culture and educational system does not breed automatons that follow blindly".

As much as I would love to believe this, I think research by Stanley Milgram shows otherwise:

"I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation."

I fear that this same principle applies in general hierarchical social structures, such as the goverment. I do not think that the people's privacy is secure in the hands of people following orders, and that thus can displace the morality of their actions to their superiors.


Check the rest of the article, as it makes good reading:

http://remus.rutgers.edu/~rhoads/PerilsofObedience.html

MikeMay 22, 2006 9:05 AM

"Mike,

Your statements are equivalent to a person in the 16th century claiming that we'll never have democratic republics, and then citing that the only places 'my' ideas exist is in Switzerland.
Then telling me that disagreeing with the King & his court makes me philosophically corrupt - for I must see that he must be right because of his noble birth."

I suspect the Athenians would disagree with that. But the point is, everywhere your vision of a stateless society has been tried or exists, weh do not have your utopian vision of the world but anarchy, chaos and death. Democracy and places with states, have quite the opposite.

"Thus speaks the "uncommunist"...

What the hell is that even supposed to mean? You can be anti-communist, but that would be rather stupid to point out - since most people in the world are anti-communist."

Communists believe private property is a crime. Libertarians believe it is sacred. Communist beleive in the collective good over the induvidual. Libertarians believe in the individual over the collective. Libertarian philoposhy is the diametric opposite to communits. You are as readical and as extreme as the communist but in the opposite direction. You are merely "uncommunist".

Tack on Ayn Rand's neo-Social Darwinist update of "uberman" and it is as totalitarian and facist as any Soviet government as well (or at least incredibly tolerant of such destructive behaviour).

"" Someone here is severely philisophically corrupted, but it isn't Pat..."

So, Mike, you do think that aggression is the best way to solve problems? Be honest."

I think the best way to solve a problem is based on the merits of that problem, not on a preconcieved, utopian idea of how things should work (but don't in the real world). So most of the time I think that agression is not the best way. But yes, there are times when it is needed. It depends on the problem.

But as Pat points out, for EVERY problem mentioned here, you answer is that is is the fault of the state and we must get rid of the state and live in some kind of utopian 'agora'. I guess if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, eh?

Try reading ideas beyond Von Mises and Rothbard - Galbraith, Joseph Heath - and try looking at the real world. Communism fails and so will Libertarianism, for the same reasons - extremes rarely reflect reality.

Sorry Bruce for going off topic.

JungsonnMay 22, 2006 11:01 AM

We're being taken away our biggest right, the right on privacy. No matter what side you are on, this aint a good development.

"There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity" - Douglas McArthur -

GregMay 22, 2006 1:26 PM

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties, but you have no civil liberties if you are dead." Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas

I think it'd be impossible to support a draft under any circumstance with an attitude like that. However, I'm guessing Pat has no problem with the draft being used in certain parts of history, such as ww2 or vietnam. So, which is it? Are freedoms worth dieing for or not?

Dave ConradMay 22, 2006 2:18 PM

Mat: "Several bloggers have pointed out that both the FISA judges and members of congress (from both parties) knew about the NSA activities."

I don't believe this is true. I don't think the FISA judges were aware of it at all -- why or how would they have been, if they weren't approached for warrants? As for members of Congress, only a handful were informed, and sworn to secrecy so they couldn't do anything about it. But the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are supposed to be fully informed of the intelligence operations of the gov't so they can perform oversight.

This process of just informing the people with the most seniority is another example of this administration making it up out of whole cloth as they go along.

George: "in order to root out leeks" None in my garden. Bruce: 57k.

AnonymousMay 22, 2006 3:08 PM

One thing that so many pundits on this subject neglect to consider is that a cartian small percentage of criminal acts are the price we pay for privacy and liberty. Unless you have a complete and utter police state in which everyone's location, actions, and even thoughts are monitored 24/7, you can't ultimately prevent all crime or apprehend everyone who commits a crime. (Even if you had such a system in place, who is going to monitor and process the massive amount of constantly changing data? It would take more manpower than any government could provide.)

If you have a society based on freedom and liberty, and really value those rights, there will always be a certain small percentage of people who will take advantage of that atmosphere and use it for evil. That's human nature. Al Gore was unjustly criticized for saying that the goal should be to recude terrorism to the level of a "nuisance." You can quibble about his choice of words, but he spoke volumes of reason -- you can't ever eliminate crime and terrorism no matter how draconian and intrusive you make the laws. Suicide bombers with sufficient zeal and fanaticism (not to mention a dream of martyrdom) will never be deterred by mere laws.

It's like the retail industry's attitude towards shoplifting and shrinkage. Short of strip-searching everyone who leaves the store, you will never eliminate the problem, no matter how many millions you spend on cameras, security tags, and fancy hi-falutin' machines. The smart retailer takes a handful of sensible common-sense precautions, then accepts the fact that a small percentage will still always find a way around the security measures, and that throwing more money at the problem is probably not going to be cost-effective -- a certain small percentage of shrinkage is part of the cost of doing business and always will be. Likewise, a certain small percentage of crime is part of the cost of living in a free society in which privacy is not just protected, but embraced.

quincunxMay 22, 2006 7:03 PM

"But the point is, everywhere your vision of a stateless society has been tried or exists, weh do not have your utopian vision of the world but anarchy, chaos and death. "

Can you offer some examples where state-less societies result in chaos and death?

For as I see it both the examples you provide were the result of resisting a state, not imposing one.

"Democracy and places with states, have quite the opposite."

Post hoc ergo procter hoc?

You draw the wrong conclusion that prosperity and peace is a result of democracy, I contend that they exist DESPITE it.

Conscription, for example, is purely a democratic concept.

" think the best way to solve a problem is based on the merits of that problem, not on a preconcieved, utopian idea of how things should work (but don't in the real world). So most of the time I think that agression is not the best way. But yes, there are times when it is needed. It depends on the problem."

I don't conceive of how things should work. I know how things work, when they are left free of violence to work.

Your experience already suffers from interpreting the world after there has been much state aggression. And your solution is more aggression to solve the problems.

You contend that aggression is justified, but unless it is merely to punish criminals (which can only exist if there is such a thing as private property, including self), then that aggression will cause OTHER problems.

Because you claim to be a pragmatist - you will MISS the reason for the new problems that were created. And again you will repeat the same mistake. You will never learn, and only make things worse. Only to whine about it later. If the work of Sysyphus or a dog chasing its tail appeals to you, then go ahead an propound the same nonsense.

"Try reading ideas beyond Von Mises and Rothbard - Galbraith, Joseph Heath - and try looking at the real world. Communism fails and so will Libertarianism, for the same reasons - extremes rarely reflect reality."

Have you even read Mises and Rothbard? If you have you will realize that they dismantle the positions of the likes of Heath and Galbraith (the latter, specifically). The fact they give their opponents any thought, as opposed to the likes of the latter that simply ignore or refuse to argue (or use logical fallacies and rhetoric) shows why their argument is superior.

"But as Pat points out, for EVERY problem mentioned here, you answer is that is is the fault of the state and we must get rid of the state and live in some kind of utopian 'agora'. I guess if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, eh?"

Yes, whenever aggression is the problem, aggression must be the problem.

Are tautologies too difficult to understand?

The funny thing is that every commentator has a method for solving this supposed problem. Yet people's ideas conflict. So, how does one solve the problem, without coming up with some network of hodge podge kludge laws that purport to solve the problem?

And what about the mountain heaps of laws that were previously made to address these problems?

In another thread I've already mentioned to you why the hammer analogy applies to governments, not anarcho-capitalists or libertarians.

Governments have only one solution to problems: violence.

I will continue to find your mantra hilarious.

RalphMay 23, 2006 12:50 AM

Bruce.

Be encouraged. This might be the best piece of yours I have read.

Hang in there, its worth fighting for.

XellosMay 23, 2006 8:52 AM

--'I commit no crimes"

Don't count on that. Given that there are several thousand pages of federal regulations on cabbages, it's pretty much a certainty that everyone is breaking some law. This is why selective enforcement is a bad thing, and just as much a fascist's dream as universal surveillance is. The two of them combine to form a horrible threat to everyone else...

XellosMay 23, 2006 8:58 AM

--"NSA, whatever its sins and failings, does not conduct "effort against the American people." What is appalling is the damage to NSA's capabilities to collect against enemies of the American people as a result of irresponsible media hype and politician grandstanding."

This attitude is hard to square with Qwest's reports that when they asked the NSA to get a FISA warrant for the information, the NSA refused on the grounds that they couldn't get one...

Sorry, but datamining the calling patterns of the domestic US does not do what you claim it does. If you aren't familiar with the concept of data mining, I suspect wikipediea can enlighten you somewhat.

BennyMay 23, 2006 9:02 AM

Hey quincunx:

Here's another application of the hammer analogy: when you've only read a couple of authors, i guess their ideas look like the solution to every problem you see. It continues to impress me how much bluster you get out of having read just a couple of books. Unfortunately, bluster is no substitute for real-world support for your ideas.

Ralf BendrathMay 23, 2006 9:44 AM

Congratulations to Bruce for starting this important discussion. The question was "Why should we have a legitimate interest in hiding things from others if we are not criminals?" It can help to look at the literature on social theory and moral philosphy here.

A liberal philosophical argument was developed by Beate Rössler in a book that has the same title as Bruce's essay (did you read it?): "The Value of Privacy" (Polity Press 2004): No matter if you do something wrong or illegal - just the fact that you feel watched or know you are being watched has an impact on the way you behave. Therefore, it endangers your authenticity and autonomy.

Sociological reasing is also helpful. There is a classic text about the functional value of secrets for social differentiation, and how it is needed to create something like social complexity, by one of the founders of modern sociology: Georg Simmel, "The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies" American Journal of Sociology 11 (1906): 441-498.
A bit tough to read for non-sociologists, but highly recommended.

Then you can look at hierarchy and power. A major problem in most of the surveillance schemes from Bentham to the DHS is the built-in asymmetry between the watchers and those being watched. This constitutes a form of hierarchy and potential power that should not be created easily and needs constant checks and balances. It somehow boils down to "who's watching the watchers", but more with a focus on power relations than on potential misuse. Bruce has it right: It is about liberty versus control.

HaruMay 23, 2006 9:55 AM

You make good points about the importance of individual privacy.
I remember a story a while back about police officers who, when
they see an attractive person in a car, would look up the license
plate to get an address. This is colloquially known as "running a
plate for a date". (Search Google for more info, or check out:
http://gsulaw.gsu.edu/lawand/papers/fa04/penn_pittman_rothstein/ )


Such cases of individual lost privacy are clearly cause for
concern. However, I believe there is a greater threat: mass
surveillance, data mining, and targeted messages. For example,
look at what is being done by the Acxiom corporation:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/interviews/swire.html


And the threat from mass surveillance does not come from the
possibility of individuals getting in trouble for little
quasi-legal transgressions. Instead, the threat is from the power
of persuassion gained by having one's finger on the pulse of
society, including all the private e-mails, telephone calls, and
various public documentation which people accumulate throughout
their lives. (I would be genuinely surprised if some government
agencies do not have access to Google search profiles as well as
access to the databases of all the major free e-mail providers.
Heck, I wouldn't be too surprised if it turns out Google and the
NSA are joined at the hip. Can't get a FISA warrant for millions
and millions of Americans, can you?)

nestorMay 23, 2006 3:56 PM

Ale:
I have read that research and find it very interesting. I distinguish the social structure in governement this way. In the NSA domestic surveillance project for instance; I do not believe General Hayden came up with the project one day and ordered his subordinates to do it. Probably, subordinates way done the food chain wanted the project to help them to do their job. They proposed the project to higher ups. The request gradually made its way up through bureaucracy and legal scrutiny. Eventually Hayden approved it. Its not that the subordinates have to resist unlawful or unethical orders, the subordinates come up with the ideas. The ideas have to be fought through the web of bureaucrats.
The research doesn't apply to the case in point.

Pat CahalanMay 23, 2006 4:16 PM

@ nestor

> Its not that the subordinates have to resist unlawful or unethical orders, the
> subordinates come up with the ideas.

I don't know that this is true in this specific case, and it certainly isn't in the general case.

Ideas can be spawned at any level of an organization's heirarchy, but the ideas that are implemented tend to be those that are enabled by the authoritative channel of the heirarchy.

In other words, 100 grunts may propose 100 different ideas to their manager, who will accept 10 of them to propose to his manager (who manages 10 managers), who will take 10 of those 100 up to the approving authority for authorization and implementation.

Since the head authority's general philosophy has a tendency to trickle down the managerial path, the middle managers will usually pass on those ideas that they believe will survive the scrutiny of the authority's approval process.

So, to say the subordinates come up with the ideas isn't entirely accurate. The organization encourages the growth of those proposed ideas that match the philosophy of the management structure, and usually kills off the others :)

Pat CahalanMay 23, 2006 4:47 PM

@ quincunx

> Can you offer some examples where state-less societies result in chaos and death?

Not precisely. However, I can't think of any state-less societies existing in an agricultural based community with a mechanism of trade since humans kept historical records. If you have an example of one, I'd be interested in reading about it. Obviously any state-less societies from *before* recorded history can only be postulated and discussed by inferred or derived knowledge. I suspect there were a large number of state-less societies prior to the advent of agriculture.

I imagine a large number of these self-imploded when someone willing to use violence to get his way imposed his will upon the others. I imagine another large number of these were ground into dust when the neighboring society picked up clubs and stones and decided to take their food or whatever by force.

> I know how things work, when they are left free of violence to work.

Given the course of human history, do you truly believe that it is possible for a socioeconomic collection of humans to exist for any period of time without violence occuring? Saying "things work like this when there is no violence" is equivalent to saying, "the laws of mechanics operate like this in a vacuum". Regardless of the truth of the statement, we do not and cannot remove the atmosphere from the equation. As Bruce likes to point out, security is fundamentally a tax upon the honest. Without dishonesty, you don't need security. Similiarly, without violence, you don't need enforced rules for a society. Unfortunately, you're stuck with dishonesty and violence. If you don't believe that, then you *are* a believer in utopia.

> Conscription, for example, is purely a democratic concept.

From a military history standpoint, this is a laughably indefensible statement. Forced conscription existed independently of democracy, and has certainly been around as long as organized warfare, and undoubtedly longer.

> Because you claim to be a pragmatist - you will MISS the reason for the new
> problems that were created.

On the contrary, at least as far as I am concerned, I am well aware that the imposition of rules, the empowerment of a governmental structure (collective or otherwise), and the institutionalization of force all can lead to additional problems. As any system grows more complex, failures can be more catastropic.

There are two tracks you can take -> one is to implement the complex system anyway and try to proactively and continuously adapt to changing conditions. The second is to implement a non-complex system. I admit the first has its drawbacks, as you point out. The second has its drawbacks as well, which you either don't see or disregard.

Given a large enough collection of people with complex interrelations, a heirarchy of authority *will* form over time. I don't see how you can dispute this. Of course, if you *don't* agree with that statement, then our disagreement in general is readily explained, but undoubtedly unresolvable.

Curtis CarpenterMay 23, 2006 5:44 PM

Bruce,
After having a rant myself about losing a PDA with my life in it, I looked around for other people who may feel the same about the real dollar value of their privacy. what concerns me as much as anything is there is an industry [a multi billion dollar industry - Choicepoint] that's using your and my infomation as saleable assets.

Where's my cut???

Whilst they have to pay to get the information, they are obviously turning this into a very lucrative exercise. I guess that means that our respective royalty cheques are in the mail??

CC

quincunxMay 24, 2006 4:45 AM

Hey Benny:

"Here's another application of the hammer analogy: when you've only read a couple of authors, i guess their ideas look like the solution to every problem you see."

You have assumed that the couple of authors that I have read are ALL the authors that I have read. Yet because I don't agree with most of them, they do not show up in my argument.

"It continues to impress me how much bluster you get out of having read just a couple of books. "

Did you even read my books?
Or does disagreeing with you imply that I am not familiar with your books?

"Unfortunately, bluster is no substitute for real-world support for your ideas."

Well, people eventually learn. I think you are underestimating the real-world support for my ideas.

@ Pat:

"Not precisely. However, I can't think of any state-less societies existing in an agricultural based community with a mechanism of trade since humans kept historical records. If you have an example of one, I'd be interested in reading about it."

Yes, two: Iceland 900-1200AD, Ireland 800-1200AD.

"I imagine a large number of these self-imploded when someone willing to use violence to get his way imposed his will upon the others. I imagine another large number of these were ground into dust when the neighboring society picked up clubs and stones and decided to take their food or whatever by force."

In the case of Iceland & Ireland the former did not occur, but the latter did.

Viking and British invasions did overtake these areas. So in this regard you are correct. But what about a state taking over another state? Surely this is the history as most people know it (specifically, the 20th century). So the fact that a state-less society can be destroyed by a state society, in no way makes it inferior, at least historically to the states that have been overrun by other states.

You also have to look at the obvious examples of places were government was laughably small. If a little bit of freedom is a good thing, then most freedom is a great thing.

"Given the course of human history, do you truly believe that it is possible for a socioeconomic collection of humans to exist for any period of time without violence occuring?"

No. Violence happens. The question is what creates more violence?

This is a good outline:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/molyneux/molyneux15.html

"Similiarly, without violence, you don't need enforced rules for a society. "

I meant institutionalized violence. Institutionalized violence is the use of violence to enforce rules against violence. And if you don't like it, you can't go anywhere else.

"Unfortunately, you're stuck with dishonesty and violence."

If you are indeed stuck, wouldn't you rather like to have the choice to be stuck with the bunch that commits it the least?

Here is the simplest refutation of Hobbes:
If people are good, we don't need government.
If people are bad, we certainly can't have government. We especially can't have a democracy because the majority of bad people will pick bad people.
If some people are good and others bad, we MUST have a free choice in deciding which groups we will deal with. Any imposition on such choice will ultimately be bad.

"From a military history standpoint, this is a laughably indefensible statement. Forced conscription existed independently of democracy, and has certainly been around as long as organized warfare, and undoubtedly longer."

Modern conscription arose during the french revolution (at least that's what history & etymology tell me). Although, what you are thinking of is 'slave labor', yes slave labor was forced involuntarily to serve in wars.

"On the contrary, at least as far as I am concerned, I am well aware that the imposition of rules, the empowerment of a governmental structure (collective or otherwise), and the institutionalization of force all can lead to additional problems. As any system grows more complex, failures can be more catastrophic."

And yet when people are free, it is easier for them to avoid the catastrophe. There are simply more viable ways to avoid it.

"There are two tracks you can take -> one is to implement the complex system anyway and try to proactively and continuously adapt to changing conditions. The second is to implement a non-complex system. I admit the first has its drawbacks, as you point out. The second has its drawbacks as well, which you either don't see or disregard."

A popular misconception of anarchism is the idea that it is non-complex and simple. This is untrue. For while the idea that "let people trade freely and voluntarily" is simple, it's implication is that people acting freely create complexity. Complexities are solved via their own complexities. Governments operate on the most simple of principles: We a group of people that stand outside and above another group of people, initiate force upon ourselves and those below us in a given territory, and sometimes others in other territories.

This is my opinion is even less complex. It tries to solve complex problems using barbaric means.

"Given a large enough collection of people with complex interrelations, a heirarchy of authority *will* form over time."

So, in order to prevent this hierarchy, we must pre-emptively create one?

Yes. As long as parents, teachers exist there will always be a hierarchy.

"I don't see how you can dispute this. Of course, if you *don't* agree with that statement, then our disagreement in general is readily explained, but undoubtedly unresolvable."

The idea is to minimize authority.

There will always be authority, the question is what kind of system creates the least. And which one reduces the violence.

Think about it this way: governments (mostly democratic) literally decimated 200 million people in the 20th century. That is an order of magnitude greater than all the violent private crime through-out history.

Think of all the people killed and Incarcerated for crimes not of mankind, but of state.

The idea that governments can do well - masks the fact it takes money from some people and gives to others to do the job - as if the two parties can't deal with each other freely.

In general I do agree with you, but it's silly to worry about hierarchy of authority when we already have hierarchy and authority (of a worse kind).

JoeMay 24, 2006 7:56 AM

> "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

If I were in the U.S., my favorite answer would likely be "it's called 'business secrets'" - which is a quite protection worthy asset in your jurisdiction.

It's not exactly an all-out lie, either. You might not literally be a business, but when it comes to your bank accounts, your notes on how to fill out your IRS forms, your exchange with your lawyer on some current court case, etc. etc., it *is* a financial interest of yours to keep the data private.

AleMay 24, 2006 9:56 AM

@ nestor:

"The request gradually made its way up through bureaucracy and legal scrutiny. Eventually Hayden approved it. Its not that the subordinates have to resist unlawful or unethical orders, the subordinates come up with the ideas."

You make a fair argument based on a particular model of government operation. Unfortunately, unless we have factual knowledge of how things work inside the current government (as opposed to how we would like things to work), all we have is speculation. Maybe we will eventually know, once someone pushes enough FOIA requests through.

RvnPhnxMay 24, 2006 12:58 PM

Ok, lots of interesting talk here intersperced with utter nonsense.
I only have a small thing to add, so I'll keep this short:
Ever notice how the people whom are most successful in social circles are those whom can lie? Specifically the "little white" variety?
That's right, not those whom always tell the truth or those whom lie like a snake. Why is this?
So now, why is privacy important again?

Pat CahalanMay 24, 2006 3:33 PM

@ quincunx

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to write a detailed reply, but a couple of quick things just to let you know I'm not ignoring your post:

> Ireland 800-1200AD

I wouldn't call Ireland c. 1000 AD a state-less society (admittedly, I know beans about Iceland).

I find it interesting that your two examples both are over 800 years old, represent geographically isolated entites (relative to the technology that existed at the time), and are pre-industrialized societies.

> So the fact that a state-less society can be destroyed by a state society, in no way makes
> it inferior, at least historically to the states that have been overrun by other states.

Not definitively, no. However, if there have been very few state-less societies since 500 AD, and none of them have survived until a state of industrialization, doesn't that at least *imply* that it is likely a state-less society is less resilient? If state-less societies were even *as* resilient as their counterparts, shouldn't one of them have survived?

> http://www.lewrockwell.com/molyneux/molyneux15.html

Although Molyneux raises some interesting points about centralized states, this essay itself is not consistent. Original premise: "the most common objection to a stateless society is that violence will inevitably increase in the absence of a centralized state. [unnecessary derogatory statement]. It seems hard to imagine that this conclusion could ever be reached by reasoning from first principles, as we will see below."

He then does nothing to discuss stateless societies' propensity (or lack thereof) to tend towards disorder and violence, but instead spends the rest of his essay discussing ways that a centralized society *can* tend towards violence. Even without disagreeing with his principles/conclusions regarding centralized societies (which can be picked apart on their own), his analysis is meaningless without comparison to a stateless society. Put another way... okay, so centralized societies can lead to imposition of violence in various ways. So? This does not mean that the absence of a centralized society will therefore remove all tendencies to violence. Sure, some of the incentives may be removed, but this does not mean that all violence will cease. "A implies B" does not in any way mean that "Not A implies not B", or even that "Not A implies less B".

> And yet when people are free, it is easier for them to avoid the catastrophe.
> There are simply more viable ways to avoid it.

Only if all people are free, and all people attempt to avoid catastrophe. I don't believe either of these things is true, or even can be true.

> Here is the simplest refutation of Hobbes:
> If people are good, we don't need government.

This may or may not be true. If people are good, enlightened, and intelligent, we don't need government. If they're good but some are stupid or unenlightened, we may still need a government.

> If people are bad, we certainly can't have government.

This does not follow. If everyone is bad, you're not going to have freedom or liberty regardless of whether or not there is a governmental entity (stateless societies vs centralized societies is moot -> they both suck).

> We especially can't have a democracy because the majority of bad people
> will pick bad people.

This doesn't follow either. Indeed, a democratic republic may be the best government to employ, since bad people are still (presumably) self-interested.

> If some people are good and others bad, we MUST have a free choice in deciding
> which groups we will deal with. Any imposition on such choice will ultimately
> be bad.

I don't know that this follows either.

Even if I'm wrong and you're correct on all three points, this whole refutation of Hobbes relies on people being "good" or "bad". People aren't "good" or "bad". People can act in ways that are "good" or "bad", but even the same person can act in some ways good and some ways bad at different times... sometimes acting in a way that is both good and bad (choosing the lesser of two evils still leaves some evilt to be done).

> So, in order to prevent this hierarchy, we must pre-emptively create one?

No, you're missing my point. Do you agree that any collection of people will ultimately impose a heirarchy of authority? If the heirarchy of authority is inevitable, then yes, we must absolutely design and build one rather than allow it to evolve without any framework.

> There will always be authority, the question is what kind of system creates the
> least. And which one reduces the violence.

This I absolutely agree with, if you edit it to: "There will always be authority, the question is what kind of system creates a heirarchy of authority which is most difficult to exploit, has the least consequences when successfully exploited, and recovers with least chaos from a successful attempt to exploit."

> Think about it this way: governments (mostly democratic) literally decimated
> 200 million people in the 20th century.

This is histrionic, and if you discount extra-societal deaths (e.g., my society's army kills N of your society's army) and look at inter-societal deaths (e.g., my society's government kills N of my society's citizens), there are several stellar examples that outshine all the others when it comes to decimating your own citizens, and none of them are democratic (Hitler's extermination of Jews, gypsys, etc., Stalin's purges, the Khmer Rouge). Or are you going to argue that Pol Pot's use of “Democratic Kampuchea��? means that Cambodia was a democracy?

CraigMay 24, 2006 3:49 PM

Why Privacy?

Just wondering if people who agree with the statement, "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?" also think we should dispose of the secret ballot?

JacobMay 28, 2006 10:44 AM

Thank you Mr. Schneier. Everyone has done something wrong according to the laws defined by the government or military in command at any given time. What was lawful yesterday or today becomes unlawful tomorrow. When the rights to individual privacy has been undermined by a "democratic" government or governments, then the country is no longer ruled by democracy but by tyranny. If a country is under democratic rule, the question should be, "If your government has done nothing wrong against us then why data mine and maintain surveillance systems on your own citizenry."

BartJune 27, 2006 3:44 PM

I just recently stumbled upon this essay, and at first I reacted like most people here: thank you, it's very good and intelligent. I've always been for freedom, liberty, and privacy. But as I started integrating these ideas with what I already know, I realized something very important: I disagree.

It's a very tough issue, and if things remained as they are, I would agree that our privacy is more important. But let's not forget how fast our world is changing. What is true now will not be true 5 or 10 years from now, or maybe even next week. The potential for small groups or even individuals to wreak havoc on the human race rises every day. When will that trend stop? There are two possibilities: someone does something really bad, and we change our minds afterwards (if we're not wiped out); or we change the system to reverse that trend and not risk a disaster.

I am for the second option. As much as I don't want people seeing videos of me peeing on the Internet, it's preferable to death. How can anyone say that we have the right to endanger millions of people simply because the alternative is change? Is the inconvenience of learning to live in a different way that important? Life is all about change. We have to adapt to our new environment; standing firm and demanding that the status quo remain undisturbed is a silly conservative idea that will not, can not, work. We have to evolve beyond our fears of exposing our secrets or quirks, beyond being ashamed of natural functions, beyong being afraid of being judged or criticized. We have to embrace our humanity, the good as well as the bad, and proudly show it to the world. And we have to create a government that will not abuse the data about us. But we have to be watched: for our own safety, for our children's future, for the future of our civilization and race. The stakes are just too high.

Protecting privacy is like trying to prevent an asteroid hit by not allowing astronomical observations because they don't fit with our idea of Earth being the center of the universe. Let's move on, not hang onto old ideas that don't work in today's world. Privacy might have worked for our parents, but it won't work for our children. There are plenty of homicidal maniacs out there just like there are plenty of asteroids in space. If we don't look for them and stop them, we'll get smacked down. And we'll deserve it.

BartJune 27, 2006 3:45 PM

I just recently stumbled upon this essay, and at first I reacted like most people here: thank you, it's very good and intelligent. I've always been for freedom, liberty, and privacy. But as I started integrating these ideas with what I already know, I realized something very important: I disagree.

It's a very tough issue, and if things remained as they are, I would agree that our privacy is more important. But let's not forget how fast our world is changing. What is true now will not be true 5 or 10 years from now, or maybe even next week. The potential for small groups or even individuals to wreak havoc on the human race rises every day. When will that trend stop? There are two possibilities: someone does something really bad, and we change our minds afterwards (if we're not wiped out); or we change the system to reverse that trend and not risk a disaster.

I am for the second option. As much as I don't want people seeing videos of me peeing on the Internet, it's preferable to death. How can anyone say that we have the right to endanger millions of people simply because the alternative is change? Is the inconvenience of learning to live in a different way that important? Life is all about change. We have to adapt to our new environment; standing firm and demanding that the status quo remain undisturbed is a silly conservative idea that will not, can not, work. We have to evolve beyond our fears of exposing our secrets or quirks, beyond being ashamed of natural functions, beyong being afraid of being judged or criticized. We have to embrace our humanity, the good as well as the bad, and proudly show it to the world. And we have to create a government that will not abuse the data about us. But we have to be watched: for our own safety, for our children's future, for the future of our civilization and race. The stakes are just too high.

Protecting privacy is like trying to prevent an asteroid hit by not allowing astronomical observations because they don't fit with our idea of Earth being the center of the universe. Let's move on, not hang onto old ideas that don't work in today's world. Privacy might have worked for our parents, but it won't work for our children. There are plenty of homicidal maniacs out there just like there are plenty of asteroids in space. If we don't look for them and stop them, we'll get smacked down. And we'll deserve it.

AlexJuly 24, 2006 6:39 AM

The main problem with the term "privacy" in politics and law: it lack's a positive definition (the negative definition is "absence of surveillance").

My attempt at a positive definition is "Freedom from interference through surveillance", though this is too close on the negative definition.

If you got a better idea, please sent it to amnesty international, every blog you know and maybe even me, if you find the time ;-)

Greetings, Alex

pauAugust 27, 2006 1:20 PM

IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO INDIVIDUALS CONTRALLIING OUR DESTINY AND MANIPULATE OUR SURROUNDINGS.ALMOST GOD LIKE. SO ILLEGAL SPYING IS DEFIENTLY NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO GO.

GraysonOctober 2, 2006 4:03 AM

Presumably, this administration would support the argument that "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?". Problem is this administration classified more information in its first two years than all eight of Clinton's. The Bush administration has repeatedly displayed truly historic and manical levels of secrecy. What have they got to hide?

NatashaOctober 26, 2006 3:36 AM

I just wanna say thanks for writing this. Imdoing my english paper on thistopic and this really helps me a whole lot so thanks =)

AndrewNovember 15, 2007 6:44 AM

How did it come to pass that the Constitution is considered an absolute list of all 'rights' mankind has?

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

People have lost the idea that we have rights *beyond* what the government is willing to grant us...

AnonymousDecember 4, 2007 7:15 PM

Human nature has not changed and will not change. Those who believe that they 'have nothing to hide' need to be hauled (in cattle cars for more dramatic effect) to the nearest Holocaust museum and be locked therein until they lose their sanity or develop the necessary distrust for authority.

JamesDecember 5, 2007 6:50 PM

Privacy (or liberty in general) has always been sacrificed for the security of the group. But, our society has become so obsessed with safety that it has allowed liberty to be taken away bit by bit. The extremely litigious nature of our society reflects that, as does the surveillance issue. The solution to this problem is to return to an "at your own risk" way of life where people are responsible for their own actions. The passing of such a gargantuan body of laws as our nation has in order to protect the populace is treating only the symptoms: people need to think for themselves instead of letting others do their thinking for them. When people care enough to behave with respect and forethought, then we will not be forced to specify to the smallest detail what people can and cannot do. The rule of law has replaced good judgment; liberty has been sacrificed to protect us. We enable, and ultimately allowed to happen, the violation of our privacy in the name of security.

Steve TrutaneDecember 8, 2007 7:18 AM

In 2003, George Radwanski, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, gave a presentation of the threat to freedom created by privacy intrusions and provides some excellent arguments about how privacy is a fundamental human right:

http://www.privcom.gc.ca/information/ar/02_04_10_e.asp#overview

He raises a really key point that has not come up in the present discussion, and that is the following:

> The more information government compiles about us, the more of it will
> be wrong. That's simply a fact of life.

There will always be some amount of noise in the gathering, storage, and retrieval of information. As the scope and complexity of the collected data rise, the amount of false positives and false negatives will very likely rise too, causing degradation in accuracy, precision, reliability, and traceability. Some links of interest here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Theory#Channel_capacity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustification
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrology

Given the nature and use of personal data, these errors can have seriously negative consequences. Radwanski goes explores these consequences quite eloquently, which I
include here because it bears repeating:

> If information that is actually about someone else is wrongly applied
> to us, if wrong facts make it appear that we've done things we
> haven't, if perfectly innocent behavior is misinterpreted as
> suspicious because authorities don't know our reasons or our
> circumstances, we will be at risk of finding ourselves in trouble in a
> society where everyone is regarded as a suspect. By the time we clear
> our names and establish our innocence, we may have suffered
> irreparable financial or social harm.
> ...
>
> Decisions detrimental to us may be made on the basis of wrong facts,
> incomplete or out-of-context information or incorrect assumptions,
> without our ever having the chance to find out about it, let alone to
> set the record straight.
>
> That possibility alone will, over time, make us increasingly think
> twice about what we do, where we go, with whom we associate, because
> we will learn to be concerned about how it might look to the
> ubiquitous watchers of the state.
> ...
>
> The bottom line is this: If we have to live our lives weighing every
> action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what
> agents of the state might find out about it, analyze it, judge it,
> possibly misconstrue it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are
> not truly free.

Sherwood BotsfordDecember 10, 2007 10:29 PM

One good way to deal with the NSA is to routinely send encrypted email. Indeed, if we could persuade people to routinely use strong encryption, the NSA would drown in the traffic. Run PRNGs and encrypt chunks of the output, and send them to all your friends (and enemies...) as attachments.

Won't stop them, but it will at least make the bastards work.

BrianJanuary 15, 2008 7:46 AM

Bruce makes good points, however on the flip side, privacy is responsible for the creation of many bad laws. Legislation requiring the government to make all information held about citizens open and public knowledge would make people less passive about the scope of government action. It's this notion that information is safe in the government's hands that wouldn't be safe in the neighbors' that hurts us in the long run.

sanjayDecember 9, 2009 12:51 AM

Now if only someone could explain this to Nandan Nilekani and the Unique Identification Authority of India.

gregggApril 13, 2010 4:36 PM

Perhaps the framing of the argument is at fault so far as it pertains to a question of security. Is it possible that privacy is directly related to property in a sense as something "private"? And as such, there are limits to what one can maintain as private property in the face of the leviathan. What then can only be rendered to one as "private" becomes a matter entirely of an intrinsicly personal proprietary nature. Thus privacy can only be traded willingly and within limits.

mannyApril 23, 2010 6:52 PM

with respect to "who watches the watchers" ... what if everyone were the watchers? what if privacy were not controlled by the government but rather everything is recorded and is available for everyone to see publicly?

if everyone were held accountable for each and every thing they do, then no one would have incentive to do anything wrong ... everything would be open to the public forum.

mannyApril 23, 2010 6:55 PM

basically, if privacy didn't exist, no one would have cause to do anything wrong because whenever anyone does anything wrong they hope to hide it with privacy ... basically do away with privacy to make it that much harder to do wrong.

no one would cheat if there were no privacy

no one would plan terrorist attacks if there were no privacy

no one would break the law if there were no privacy

all because EVERYONE would know they did it

Secretly sinlessApril 30, 2010 4:15 PM

Manny, what you suggest is absolute nonsense. First of all, privacy is much more than the attempt to keep crimes secret. You seem to feel you do no wrong, so why don't you see what it feels like to have somebody watching over your shoulder every moment of the day. Sure you won't commit sins or crimes, but you will lose your personality completely because you will be aware that there is someone constantly judging every one of your actions. Privacy is about feeling for at least some of the day that you are not burdened with - or a burden on - anyone's else's conscience. If you've worked a job before you know that the best part is when you can finally go home and just enjoy a moment of quiet when there is no demand on you. Imagine if you got home and someone said "You can have your moment of relaxation now. I'll watch you as you sit in the backyard (Mind you don't sit in the shadows or behind a tree where no one can see you). Also, I had a negative thought today. I know it was wrong and I told myself to be a better person, but I just thought you should be warned that I may be a potential monstrous criminal, even though it is completely normal to have strange thoughts every once in a while. Enjoy your moment of supervised relaxation!"

I'll assume with your idealistic reasoning that you are a teenager, but that's no excuse; teenagers need privacy to discover their own consciousness.

Go somewhere once without telling anyone where your going; soon you'll feel like the whole world is in your reach. Only when you've discovered yourself should you answer your phone; then return to your community confident that you have a purpose and that everything else (the girls you like, your political opinions) are completely at your discretion to divulge and that you only do so when it seems appropriate.

VlesJuly 12, 2011 11:20 PM

Is There a Good Response to the “Nothing to Hide” Argument?

The value of privacy. Libertas!

Trust vs Control

Being in private is the only time where I am secure and in control of myself for I have only myself to trust. I do not have to negotiate transactions of trust with those around me, I feel unburdened, free and at rest.

The more I feel or know I am being controlled, the more I need my privacy, for I desire to be free.

Control that precludes a transaction of trust makes me very unhappy. I perceive an unfairness.

Trust me, so I may trust you and I will accept or reject your offer of control.

Grant me the freedom to make that choice. After all, we are already bound to live the life we have. For me to respect your existence, is for you to respect mine.

TimmySeptember 24, 2011 12:48 PM

Some responses to the "Nothing to Hide" argument:

'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, by Daniel J. Solove, George Washington University Law School
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID1098449_code249137.pdf?abstractid=998565&mirid=1

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide', By Daniel J. Solove
https://chronicle.com/article/Why-Privacy-Matters-Even-if/127461/

But the best argument against government spying has nothing to do with privacy as a value. In fact, the whole "Privacy" thing is a red herring. The real problem is distribution of power. When governments have the power to monitor their whole populations, that power will be abused -- especially if the populations do not have the corresponding power to monitor their governments. When given this power, governments will exploit this power in ways that do more harm to their people than the harm done by failing to monitor the public to this extent.

A general rule that people often forget is that every problem has multiple solutions, but every solution creates new problems. What makes a good solution is that the problems it creates are of a lesser order than the original problem. Sure, criminal activity and terrorism are problems, but 'Big Brother' is a bad solution -- a solution that will do more harm than these problems, as it will ultimately undermine the very way of life that our governments claim to be trying to protect.

Clayton WeaverMay 22, 2012 10:03 PM

My name is Clayton Weaver. I'm a teenager under the rule of my mom and dad. I'm very well informed when it comes to the internet. My dad is also a computer geek. We have been debating over the issue of whether or not he should be looking through my internet history, texts, emails, etc. Both me and my dad are Christian but I disagree. I think that someones conversations should stay private unless made specifically for a specific audience. My dad believes in accountability. He said that it doesn't make him uncomfortable in the least if I watch what he is doing on the internet. He said he would let me look at his emails and history. He uses this arguement, "If you have nothing to hide, then why do you feel the need to hide?" It just makes me uncomfortable that he will be reading all my conversations with my girlfriend and other students at school on the internet. I don't think that its very fair for the person I'm discussing with either. They don't know that my father is snooping through my conversations with them. But then he goes, "Well if they won't say it in front of me, then they shouldn't say it." Stuff like that. I'm really aggravated and simply creeped out by my dad. Its like hes invading on my privacy. When I tell him that he says that, "The internet is a privilege, not a right." I would like some advice on how to counter-argue him. If you want, email me at gamester32@@gmail.c0m

RonMarch 25, 2013 1:53 AM

C'mon guys, how could we enjoy a good game of poker if we had nothing to hide?

AnonSeptember 11, 2013 10:15 PM

It can also be a matter of crafting something to blackmail (or otherwise silence) the person with; "if you don't like the 'usable' 'news', go out and make some of your own" works for vile efforts just as well.

For example:

Prime someone into buying something for innocent reasons, something that could also have a nefarious use; then make it abundantly clear to them, what that nefarious use is; then give them the opportunity to surreptitiously dispose of the item. If they do so, get it on video and you've achieved your goal.

Is there a "compromiser's cookbook" of recipes like this?
You can also trade off the divergence between photo op and reality, where if they recognize (and thus choose to avoid) your (defamatory) crafted photo op, if you can proceed to collect enough data along these lines, you can use it to show their pattern of avoidance, which becomes evidence of their having something to hide.

There are more. It's not real fun finding out about them.

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