Friday, May 19, 2006

Why Privacy Matters

At Wired News.
The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: "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.

Also check out Mark Evanier's tale of his father's work in the IRS.

Another reason to not give up the right to privacy is because the Constitution promises it. If we start to chip away at the rights guaranteed in the Constitution, how long will it be before we have no rights at all?

Kipling warned us too:
Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure,
Whining "He is weak and far;" crying "Time shall cure."
I cannot tell you how many people have said, "oh, just wait... we'll elect a new president and wimpy George will be gone." Yeah, just wait, while he takes away more and more rights. Rights that, once lost, we'll never get back again.
Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace,
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.
Can anyone say "We're bringing democracy to the middle east! (by illegally attacking a nation that is not an immediate threat to us and murdering hundreds of thousands of their citizens)" Yeah, masking war with peace.
They that beg us barter--wait his yielding mood--
Pledge the years we hold in trust--pawn our brother's blood--
How many American soldiers, our brothers, have died due to Bush's lies and illegal war? Why are we allowing this man to spill their blood?
He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.
Gee, that sure sounds familiar. "Let's spy on you! It's to protect your freedom!" The more I read of Kipling, the more certain I am that the man saw farther than most.
He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.
Let's see... get rid of anyone who disagrees with him. Check. Claims that God is guiding him. Check. This is sounding more and more like a prophecy.
He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our windows, lest we mock the King--
This appears to be the next step. All that Bush does is "peep and mutter" of course, but how soon before the watchers start taking action when we mock George? I mean besides the death threats we already get from the far Right scumbags?
Hate and all divisions; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret; carrion breeding flies.
Wow! Kipling described Congress perfectly!
Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell--deny--delay.
He even named one of the Congresscritters. But yeah, Sell: "WMD WMD WMD!!!!" Deny: "We never said they had WMD!" Delay: "We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation at this time."

Let's finish this one off with the results of us letting King George and his rabble take over the country:
We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse,
For the Land we look to--for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
while his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain--
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

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