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Scott McNealy On Privacy

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the pouring-flaming-oil-on-troubled-waters dept.

Privacy 224

howardjp writes: "Scott McNealy's editorial, The Case Against Absolute Privacy", appeared in this morning's edition of the Washington Post. He seems to think keeping records on the public is a good idea..." McNealy is famous for his "You have zero privacy anyway, get over it" quote.

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The transparent society. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191320)

While people may like privacy, if, as Scott says, you don't have any anyway, then there's two ways society can go - towards a big-brother like police state, or a much nicer alternative outlined by David Brin, in his book "The Transparent Society", the first chapter of which is available on-line at [] Basically, he says that if the police/government/freemasons/etc can watch your every move, we'd better make sure that we are free to watch their every move too...

Scott McNealy has no privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191321)

I assigned some students, in response to his quote, to find his drivers' license number, home address, etc. He's right.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191322)

You may be correct in saying that privacy is a socially constructed right, though I can imagine a few arguments to the contrary (along the lines of "no peeking in my cave").

Your predictions about a future "sane," privacy-free society, however, are ludicrous. We already have (had) an example of that society. It was called Soviet Russia. If you sincerely believe that it is possible to have any sort of sane existence in such a society, I highly recommend that you go live in one for a while. Unfortunately the Soviet Empire no longer exists in quite that form, but there are a few other places that are close: China, possibly Cuba, and several others. Go read Arthur Koestler's "Darkness At Noon," then think about it for a while. Unless you have firsthand experience with the logical extremes to which your ideas lead, I would consider your post an ultra-naive troll at best.

And before you flame off a response, I was born in Russia and immigrated to the U.S. twenty years ago, so I have a pretty good idea of how things really work in both places.


p.s. You may also want to think about the fact that if the situation were reversed, i.e. you lived in a place which had no privacy, and you publicly and severely criticized several of the fundamental principles of that place as you've done here, you could very well be tracked down and hauled off to prison for your post. {sarcasm} On the other hand, I'd never have to hear from you again, so maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing after all... {/sarcasm}

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191323)

Every human right is socially constructed. The right to life is not "fundamental"--what would that even mean?

Re:The transparent society. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191324)

Maybe Scott should put his money where his mouth is and post everything about himself on his website. Medical history, unknown disfigurements, personal spending history for the past decade. You know, all the things he thinks are safe for us to release to unknown parties. Otherwise, he's just another windbag with alterior profit motives.

Personally, the motherfucker is starting to get on my nerves. How dare him take it upon himself to crusade to erode everyone's privacy. He's starting to appear like some sort of stereotypical villain.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191325)

Yup. Whereas right to live is not a right (aka death penalty). Not that his writing made any sense otherwise either, just nitpicking.

Fundamentally, there are no "universal" (intrinsic, whatever) human (or animal) rights; only rights a human or animal has are the ones he/she/it can obtain and uphold. This doesn't mean other rights don't exist; they just aren't fundamental and are "granted" by society, that acts as a unit to uphold those rights independent of individuals powers to do so. At least that's the basic idea. Still, it doesn't make these rights any less valuable, weaker or unnatural.

Airbag solution (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191331)

McNealy says he lets a company track his car's every move with GPS, so they know where to get him if his airbag deploys. But that doesn't require tracking every move--all it requires is sending the location if and only if the airbag deploys.

Similarly, the FBI insisted on tracking the location of cellphone users, on the justification that they could be found if they dialed 911. But the cellphone, too, could send its location only upon dialing 911.

In another editorial in the tech press, a writer recently argued for tollbooths collecting an ID from everyone who passes through. At the cost of a privacy loss, you don't have to wait at the booth. But in Europe, they're using an anonymous digital cash system to get the same benefit, without tracking people's movements.

I'm suspicious of people who argue for massive privacy violation, for the sake of benefits that can be obtained without such violation. It makes me wonder what they're really up to.

Re:The constitution doesnt guarantee anonymous spe (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191332)

You're either inattentive or severely disingenuous. If you'd bothered to read a little further in the summary of that same opinion, you'd see the majority opinion, i.e., the opinion that actually counts:

Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all. The obnoxious press licensing law of England, which was also enforced on the Colonies was due in part to the knowledge that exposure of the names of printers, writers and distributors would lessen the circulation of literature critical of the government.
and finally:
We have recently had occasion to hold in two cases that there are times and circumstances when States may not compel members of groups engaged in the dissemination of ideas to be publicly identified. Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516; N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462. The reason for those holdings was that identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance. This broad Los Angeles ordinance is subject to the same infirmity. We hold that it, like the Griffin, Georgia, ordinance, is void on its face.
In other words, tough shit, buddy.

Apparently (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#191333)

Slashdot contributors who desire to keep their privacy are cowards.

Privacy is a right (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 13 years ago | (#191337)

Privacy is a right, privacy along goes hand in hand with Liberty, and Liberty is protected in the Constitution of the United States numerous times.

Had there been no Privacy, there could have been no Revolt against the United Kingdom in 1775.

As for the ownership of Firearms, yes, that too is a right, laid out in the Constitution of the United States as well. Any right held by a Democratic-Republic, even your right to life, has been "invented", most of them invented in the last 300 years. Like the right to vote, the right to own land, the right for women to vote, the right for women not to be bought and sold like livestock, the right not to be enslaved.

If you look upon the Bible for your basic rights, like in Genesis for example, you will not find many rights at all. Was there a right to life? No, there was not. Was there even freedom of worship? No, there was not.

While The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance, Liberty also must include Privacy, for every absolute government is at heart a tyranny, and only through privacy can the people avoid being ruled by a tyranny.

Re:The constitution doesnt guarantee anonymous spe (4)

coats (1068) | more than 13 years ago | (#191338)


The current status is: McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995).

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

...Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

"trust us" is stupid, but there IS an alternative (2)

Zooko (2210) | more than 13 years ago | (#191346)

David Chaum invented blindable digital credentials in the 80's and 90's for precisely the reason that McNealy is talking about here -- so that you can do things like let the movie theatre know that you like scifi flicks and you are 3 blocks away without letting the movie theatre know who you are.

The idea that McNealy is pushing, that you can give out information about yourself in little bits, and make the recipients promise not to share it, is stupid, as should be obvious to anyone who knows about previous attempts to prohibit the free exchange of information.

If mega-corps can't prevent average users from trading information against their wishes, then how well do you think that average users will fare trying to prevent mega-corps from trading information against their wishes? Or, for that matter, other average users. There are already profitable small businesses whose sole job is to collect and organize and sell information about normal users.

The "give us your information and we promise not to mis-use it" model is just idiotic at the technological level. (That is .NET's laughable "privacy model", too.) However, there is a technological alternative: Chaumian digital credentials.



Absolute privacy and control of privacy different (2)

astrashe (7452) | more than 13 years ago | (#191348)

The issue isn't whether information is going to be shared or not. The issue is who controls the process: individuals or large companies?

Of course I want my medical records available to doctors if I collapse. But that problem is solved quite simply with a medic alert bracelet. Lots of people use them. Lots of people CHOOSE to use them.

But does a guy who had psychiatric treatment want a potential employer to know that he took prozac for 14 months two years ago?

McNealy's piece is an argument against a straw man. As someone who uses Sun products, I'd feel better if he took his head out of the clouds and tried to fix problems with Java Web Start and the Solaris download process. It seems that more and more often Sun stuff is broken out of the box.

Fix that stuff, then tell us how to run the world.

Re:The constitution doesnt guarantee anonymous spe (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 13 years ago | (#191350)

if( supreme_court > state_court ) {
sc00ter.has.clue = TRUE;
Anonymous.coward.idiot = TRUE;

Actually, it does. (2)

samael (12612) | more than 13 years ago | (#191363)

If, as you might expect, the air bag deploying is a result of some kind of impact, the GPS may suddenly cease to function. Knowing that it has suddenly ceased to do so may be enough to save your life.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (2)

tregoweth (13591) | more than 13 years ago | (#191364)

Then what is your real name, Lovers_Arrival_The at

Personalization and Options... (3)

griffjon (14945) | more than 13 years ago | (#191366)

His point is valid, releasing some private information can generate a highly personalized experience, and this is of great value to many people. I enjoy watching Amazon try to recommend things to me with my diverse and odd tastes.

The problem I see with current privacy online is threefold--you often are not given the option to not generate personalization, the information gathered is often, if not always, shared, and most importantly, cross referencing can destroy all limits.

This last point he didn't really touch on in the article--but with just a small amount of xref work, some good logic and a bit of human input, even very small data points can be combined to generate a detailed profile. Evidentally, even mouse click patterns can help ID an individual.... This is why we jumped up and down and shouted when doubleclick wanted to link its databases.

Until we get this last problem solved, I will continue opting out and bitching about privacy issues at every corner.

I don't have any hope it will happen anytime soon, or through any technology-only method (it's a societal problem, you can do it with public records and develop a similar profile if you have a lot of time).

not famous for that quote (3)

kaisyain (15013) | more than 13 years ago | (#191367)

He's famous for being the CEO of Sun. If he weren't CEO of Sun, no one would have cared about that quote.

Mostly invalid examples (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 13 years ago | (#191368)

The problem with his article is that most of his examples are invalid. The ambulance-attendant one is the only valid one. The others can be accomplished without giving up any personal information. The car, for example, could transmit it's GPS location only when the airbag did deploy. The phone doesn't need to know my preference in restaurants when I can just ask it for the list of Mexican restaurants within a certain distance of this street corner whenever I'm in the mood for Mexican food.

He starts out by asking what personal information you need to give up to an outside entity to let them do a certain thing. It'd be better to start by asking whether you need to give up any personal information to have them answer a particular question. More often than Scott would apparently like, the answer will be "No, I don't.".

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (2)

tweek (18111) | more than 13 years ago | (#191372)

about as absurd as stating that gun ownership is a 'right'

Not to pick out one point from an otherwise "interesting" point of view, but in the US, bearing arms *IS* a right. At least according to the constitution.

non sequitur (3)

Fly (18255) | more than 13 years ago | (#191374)

It's important to let the right people have the right information, but it's more important to know when that information is needed. The GPS tracking system doesn't need to send information all the time to be able to notify the watchers where one's airbag deployed.
"I have agreed to let my car company, for instance, track my every move through GPS satellites. Some people might consider that an invasion of privacy, but I find it comforting to know that, should my air bag deploy, they know where I am and can send help."

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (2)

BilldaCat (19181) | more than 13 years ago | (#191376)

oh boy, here we go.

Correct. . . the Constitution limits GOVERNMENT (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#191377)

However, I was responding to the statement that, and I quote:

Privacy is not a right, it is a manufactured abomination, a cover for the dishonest and unnatural.

If SUN, as a Corporate Entity, chooses to ignore privacy, which consumers are demanding, then the market will quickly remedy that situation. . .

Privacy is a right. . . (3)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#191378)

. . .at least in the US of A. . .

To quote the Constitution of the United States, 4th Amendment:

Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now, I realize that the USA isn't the entire world, but the EU also places a high value on privacy. . .

Where shall we store all your information? (1)

Bobzibub (20561) | more than 13 years ago | (#191379)

On a Sun box of course!

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (4)

flimflam (21332) | more than 13 years ago | (#191380)

I probably shouldn't be responding to this obvious troll, but since it got modded up so high...

People in America, I have noticed, seem to think that privacy is some sort of fundamental right, when in fact it is socially constructed.

All rights are socially constructed. That doesn't mean that they aren't real -- they're real as long as we (as a society) continue to value them. The right to privacy is becoming controversial because it is highly valued by a lot of private citizens, but many corporations see it as an outdated concept that's a hindrance to higher profits.

The transparent society that is coming will mark the ascendance of our species. In the beginning we were innocent and naked and had no privacy, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, naked but for a fig leave each. Later, with the rise of agriculture, information became power and the notion of privacy as an absolute right was eventually invented (about as absurd as stating that gun ownership is a 'right').

This doesn't really make enough sense to respond to.

Privacy is not a right, it is a manufactured abomination, a cover for the dishonest and unnatural.

This pretty much ruins your troll, unfortunately -- you should have toned down the retoric a bit and someone would have fallen for it.

Re:Privacy and Conditions (2)

mwood (25379) | more than 13 years ago | (#191384)

Well, yeah. I want control. Control over who gets information, and what information. Control over whether or not my phone alerts me to the presence of nearby businesses that want my money.

I'd love to be able to file prescriptions with a central database, then walk into *any* handy pharmacy, insert my smartcard, and have my prescription filled (after the usual checks, and debiting the amount prescribed). No more of this "transfer" stuff. (You can imagine how much my neighborhood pharmacist likes that idea.) But I want it under my control. Most of the ideas I hear about are controlled by someone else, who just assumes that everybody wants to be known intimately everywhere and drenched in non-stop advertising.

All he is offering can be done with privacy (2)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | more than 13 years ago | (#191389)

I have could my medical records on my own site, or better yet imbedded in a ring or a watch or even in my body. Then I can have both privacy and access on my own terms. When it comes to services I can access offerings myself (or have a program to do it for me) why do I need to give someone else my likes and dislikes to get these effects.

(I use the work effects here because it is the effect that customers want not the service.)

What this comes down to is will me (or the programs under our control) do these things or will others that any not have our interests at hart do them tofor us?

No problem (4)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 13 years ago | (#191390)

So when can I stop by to take pictures of you and your girlfriend having sex and mail them to your mom? And paste them up around your office. And can you point out to me where you make your mail publicly available to your neighbors? Id like to read your tax returns. By the way, if you could e-mail me a copy of all your medical records, just cause I'm nosy and want to see what kind of birth control you use. Oh, and I see you're wiccan. I'm sure your conservative catholic boss and the local born again Christian association would love to have your home address. Ill send them a copy of your medical records also, they're sure to want to know if you've had an abortion because of that case of herpes you caught. I'd call you a troll, but I think you're serious.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (2)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#191391)

Privacy is not a right, it is a manufactured abomination, a cover for the dishonest and unnatural.

In that case, please give me your name, home address, and phone number.

Scott: Money, mouth, put it. (5)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#191394)

Dear Mr. McNealy:

It seems you think we should be willing to give up privacy for convenience.

To that end, please publish your home address, all phone numbers you can be reached at, your bank account balance, all credit cards you have and their limits, your Social Security number, all of the websites you've visited over the past 9 days, and everything you've purchased using anything but cash in the last 2 years. Please be sure to provide timely updates to the above information, as well as any additional information I request, so I can conveniently ask you important questions and inform you of exciting offers on a regular basis.

Please do this willingly, so I don't have to go running around, collecting the information covertly using cookies, purchased databases, "tracking" software, and other data-mining techniques. It's so much easier providing for your convenience when all the information I might need is at my fingertips, whether you really like it or not. After all, we have no privacy, and we should get over it, right? Or does that not apply to you?

However (3)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#191400)

The Constitution only applies to actions that the government takes towards people and the states. The actions of people towards other people are not restricted by the Constitution. We have a right to privacy in regards to the actions of the government. Not to actions taken by Sun Microsystems.

Re:Privacy and Conditions (1)

Delphinios (43483) | more than 13 years ago | (#191401)

Another Problem I've thought about, would be that of identity theft. The less information you have out there, the less people can pretend to be you. With your 'Smart Card' idea, If you were pickpocketed, or lose your wallet, you immediately lose control over every information. if you're going to control information, you have to reduce, not compress into a chip, the amount of information about you that can be looked up.

The problem is: the Tighter you control information about yourself, the less modern convieniences you have. Technically, you don't have to give your job your social security number. They don't HAVE to hire you. You don't have to give personal information to anyone. Of course, you don't HAVE to have a credit card, bank account, etc.

Privacy and Conditions (3)

Delphinios (43483) | more than 13 years ago | (#191403)

Personally, I think that one should have the ability to choose weather or not any personal information is able to be viewed and by whom. If I'm Joe Paranoid, I want the ability to turn off all access to any information about me by anyone.

Of course this will be giving up the ability to have credit cards, GPS emergency tracking or driving directions.. But if I'm willing to lose these 'convieniences', It should be my choice..

people trust strangers anyway (1)

laslo2 (51210) | more than 13 years ago | (#191406)

how many times have you asked the cute blonde waitress at the restaurant what she might be doing after work? and, if she was interested, wouldn't she hand over her home phone number so you could call her later? wouldn't you tell her your name, maybe where you work? and might she talk about you to her roommate when she gets home?

there is no such thing as absolute privacy. your personal information will be shared among people you do not know and have no control over. your personal information will be shared as a matter of course as you interact with other people and systems. you get the bad things about that one way or another. as scott is pointing out, it's up to you to decide if you want to enjoy the benefits.

after all, information wants to be free.

Scott is an extremist (2)

redelm (54142) | more than 13 years ago | (#191408)

It's very clear from this short piece that Scott McNealy is a no-privacy advocate. His view is not balanced, merely advocates his position.

He conveniently neglects to mention the darker side of "information openness" -- companies using it to extract profit from their customers [variable pricing]. Or employers using it to exercise their personal prejudices.

Not that privacy isn't without it's faults. Alot of "medical privacy" could be used for insurance fraud.

But let's have a rational debate. Not trade polemics. There really is a difference between default openness with nondiscrimination safeguards, and default privacy with info-verification safeguards.

All he says is WE should be able to.. (2)

spinkham (56603) | more than 13 years ago | (#191409)

All he says is WE should be able to give up some privacy for convience. Oh really? You mean like I can choose to have an unlisted number, or a listed one in the phone book? Well, duh. I really don't think he's saying anything new here.
What scares most of us, and he doesn't address, is when other's take some of our privacy for their convience.

He doesn't get it (2)

m0ng00se (64796) | more than 13 years ago | (#191417)

I cannot trust whomever I give my info to. I really wish I could, but I can't. Why is that? Because no one has your best intrests in mind except for you. A company may tell you that your information will be held confidential. They may actually mean it until there is a management shakeup and the new stallions re-define what "confidential" means. To business, your info is a commodity. And to not capitalize on a commodity such as that is, to most, irresistable.


McNealy may like it when he gets sold out so that marketoons can read him like a book; he shouldn't assume we find any value in it though. I believe it's called "being at a disadvantage."

No privacy? Get over it! (2)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 13 years ago | (#191418)

Hmmmm... Think about the business opportunities!

>>> McNealy/SUN AMEX Corporate Account #45223567684
>>> MCNEALY/Visa Gold Account #223356-44558961
  • 2001-05-29/Adult Video Rentals/US$20.00
  • 2001-05-28/Adult Video Rentals/US$20.00
  • 2001-05-27/Dreamladies Escort Services/US$700.00
  • 2001-05-20/Secret Erotica Toy shop/US$65.00
  • 2001-05-20/Al's Liquor Emporium/US$600
  • 2001-05-19/$25.50
  • 2001-05-15/$200

(Search order: newest first)
(Showing 7 out of 232 possible hits)

Tsk, tsk. Aren't you the party animal, Mr McNealy? Oh, and about that escort service, don't you think Ms McNealy should know about this?

You mean, she can't have access to this information? Well, due to the fact that it's legal in the USA to sell (quite detailed) consumer information, our crack team of net expert were able to obtain this little report for her for a small fee from the above companies. US$200 for 1,000 names. Cheap, eh?

Please, let us recommend a martial counselor or a divorce lawyer in your neighbourhood -- and may we interest you in a nice French restaurant, for that ?

Have a good day, Mr McNealy, and thank you for contacting NetSnoopers(tm). Remember: your satisfaction is our goal, and we value your business!

NetSnoopers(tm): Whatever it is, we'll find it for you! (tm/sm)!

Re:Personalization and Options... (2)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#191421)

I agree with your points and McNealy's. I would add that the big missing ingredient is a legal right to privacy and the binding nature of a privacy contract. If you agree to a spesific privacy agreement with a company (whether on the web or not), they should be bound to that agreement and it should be considered a legal contract.

Why does Scott care about this? (1)

wfrp01 (82831) | more than 13 years ago | (#191423)

Why does Scott McNealy care about this issue? What does he have to gain by taking/promoting this position? I don't understand his motivation. Anyone have any ideas?

bleh (4)

MillMan (85400) | more than 13 years ago | (#191425)

It seems obvious to me that he's ignoring the reason people worry about privacy in this country. I won't expand on it since other people have.

This guy is a typical example of how money is considered more important than people in this society. Since information is basically a form of currency, opinions like this are bound to be the most common. Or, at least, those that are most often heard.

In Europe, they have a more balanced view of privacy rights. Opt-in instead of opt-out, your data is your property, etc. They don't put as much of a priority on economic growth and money as we do, and that's not a coincidence.

Re:Actually, it does. (1)

eightball (88525) | more than 13 years ago | (#191427)

You can use the same mechanism that deploys the airbag to send the alert.

So you say things break. I guess air bags break, too. in which case, you are dead anyway.

I think you would end up with many false alarms with your 'GPS malfuctions=>send fire truck'... (i.e. your battery dies and you end up with medivac helicopter on your front lawn (please take as absurd example)).

Anonymous speech not the only use of privacy. (1)

eightball (88525) | more than 13 years ago | (#191428)

I would suggest the difference is that I would not I want to speak my mind without acknowledging myself. I only want to have all my personal writings, medical records, legal records, etc to be broadcast when I walk down the street.

You are Number Six (5)

bill.sheehan (93856) | more than 13 years ago | (#191432)

What Mr. McNeally seems to miss is that while I would like it if my computer kept track of my taste in movies, etc. and gave me recommendations based on that, I really don't want that information to be on your computer, to be used for purposes neither known nor sanctioned by me.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant before you may look quiet and unassuming, but that is merely a cunning disguise. He is, in fact, a homicidal sociopath. We've seen computer records that prove he regularly buys murder mysteries and watches slasher movies..."

Human being. Do not bend, spindle, or mutilate.

The world is getting smaller (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 13 years ago | (#191433)

"If you look at simple stone age peoples, they do not hanker after privacy - they have no idea what it is"

Stone age people didnt have 10 million people living in one village, or the ability to instantly communicate with one of hundreds of millions of people at will.

Stonage people had great privacy, nobody outside the small tribe would know much at all about them.

As comminications and transport technologies become greater the world effectively becomes smaller, bringing more people into our influence.
Its only natural that people will want to protect there own private space from "outsiders".

Re:Privacy and Conditions (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 13 years ago | (#191436)

I completely agree...

I'm not scared of having my medical records available to medical professionals that I've given access to, it's everyone else that snoops around and tries to dig it up that I care about. And so far, most places get failing grades when it comes to protecting that information.

As always, it should be choice, Delphinios says.

The constitution doesnt guarantee anonymous speech (3)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#191437)

In Talley v California [] (1960), three of the justices said "I stand second to none in supporting Talley's right of free speech -- but not his freedom of anonymity. The Constitution says nothing about freedom of anonymous speech."


Some Good Points (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 13 years ago | (#191438)

The article raises some very good points, which lead to some other ones. I'm being serious here, not trolling, so don't just mod this down because you disagree.
  • The fact that company X happens to know that customer ID 939392-2349493-1343 likes to play ping-pong on Tuesday nights and prefers green pullovers to blue is not equivalent to being spied upon. The information is used in an abstract fashion: crunching statistics, determining customer needs, etc. Not one person at DoubleClick or any other "Big Brother" company gives a flying flip at a rolling donut *what* you do in your spare time.
  • How does a computer thousands of miles away knowing that you're interested in travel, politics, and fine art *really* affect your life, except that the spam you receive is tailored for your interests, instead of being completely random?
  • People are naturally observant by nature. When you go out in public, you notice what people are doing, wearing, saying, etc. After a while, you come to conclusions based on those observations. Have you invaded those people's privacy? A library keeps track of what books people are reading so that they can keep their library stocked with books that will be useful or interesting to the local population. Have they invaded those people's privacy? The notion that what someone is doing is EVIL because they are company is absurd, yet that seems to be the party line here on Slashdot.
Privacy issues like this come up because people are still reeling from paranoid fantasies of adolescence: They're parents are going to find their porn, see them making out with the boy/girl from next door, find out about their secret "anarchist" identity, walk in on them pleasuring themselves, etc., etc. They carry over into their adult technological lives as rants about "privacy", "big brother", etc.

Paper vs Electronic (1)

ClarkEvans (102211) | more than 13 years ago | (#191439)

Scott seems to think that a paper record is less safe than an electronic one. Physical compromises are very different than electronic ones. With a physical compromise, there is a serious chance of getting caught; I'm not so sure about electronic break-ins, but I suspect it is far less likely to get caught. With a physical compromise, one must either search on site (increasing chances of getting caught) or leave with boxes and boxes of records (which makes the break-in clear). In the electronic compromise it's similar, but the risks are much lower and if the entire data set is downloaded it may only take a few minutes, leaving no real trace of the break-in.

Anyway, he then goes on to give examples about how I will find myself some day in a far away city and the computer will know enouh about me to recommend movies and food in the locale. God forbid. He thinks that most people actually *want* this invasion of privacy! *shudder*

The risks of digital information are significant, and the rights of ownership have yet to be answered in a satisfactory manner. Scott definately has an agenda here, and for reason, his pocket book gets bigger everytime someone buys a massive Sun to store personal information about me and you!

Scott McNealy vs Bill Gates (1)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 13 years ago | (#191444)

Scott McNealy would have to stand on his mother's shoulders to kiss Bill Gates' ass. Mod me to hell, I don't care. If indeed we don't have any privacy then our revenge is weenies like Scott McNealy could very well find out what we actually think of them.

Project ELF (1)

Meridun (120516) | more than 13 years ago | (#191447)

Corporate sentiment like this is why the number of programs that are intended to aid in anonymous information sharing have flourished. I've been writing one (Project ELF [] ) that is designed to provide a sort of anonymous online library where people can share information, specifically because people like this guy seem to think that everything you say and do online should be tracable back to you.

What that completely ignores is the fact that there are many cases where you don't necessarily wish your opinions and information to be tracable. I believe that Slashdot has a rational behind the concept of the Anonymous Coward. Some information is just too important to be shared for people to have to worry about being tracked down for sharing it.

The downside is that people are more likely to say and do irresponsible things with anonymity. However, that is really a small price to pay to avoid the loss of freedom that comes when everything is monitored.

If he wasn't the CEO of Sun, it wouldn't matter. (2)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 13 years ago | (#191448)

The whole point of that quote being important is not that someone said it, or that someone famous said it, but that someone famous for being in a position to greatly help or hinder privacy rights said it.

Re:Some Good Points (5)

AMuse (121806) | more than 13 years ago | (#191449)

The problem with that is that there are perfectly reasonable, non paranoid scenarios in which you do NOT want your information aggregated. Using the doubleclick example:

Customer X-35213-54388 purchased speaker racks and green paint for a 1989 Mazda Miata, using static IP addres 123.456.789.101 - they used to live in Minnesota but made this purchase and all recent ones from CA.

John Q. Doe has registered, on the next day, a Green 1989 Mazda Miata in CA after having moved from Minnesota.

Static DSL IP 123.456.789.101 purchased some online porn.

Add in DoubleClick's info-aggregating and every other site you visit relates everything you've done online to:

John Q. Doe
123 Fnord Ave
San Mateo, CA, 12345
SSN: 123-33-4567

No, thanks. I'm trying to keep most of that info, especially SSN, to myself and not the skript kidz that hack the companys' website.
---------------------------------------- ----------

Privacy and Mr. McNealy's essay (2)

hrieke (126185) | more than 13 years ago | (#191451)

First thing that strikes me is that he talks about medical emerancies, which I do agree. I *do* want the EMS people to know my medical history while rushing me to the hospital.
What I don't want, and what he does not talk about is how Americans made the faustian bargin on tracking and collecting of personal data, and the details which can then be used to learn about your habits to better sell you services and the like.
Direct Marketing sorta works. I've worked for Epsilon (Burlington, MA) which is a data mining operation / DMA. I've seen the data silos, heard about the size of the credit card databases (one goes all the way back to the card's inception with every transaction), how the data is used to find customers, spot fraud, and gain new users.
It's scary. Very scary stuff. But you watch it with the fasiation(sp?) like you would a car accient in the making.
If you want to maintain any sense of privacy, toss the credit cards. Use plain old cash, which is nice and anonymous.
You then refuse any awards / redemption cards (like the coupon cards at Stop-n-Shop here in Boston, Airline Freq. Flyer Cards, Blockbuster rental cards, etc.)
Credit cards in this country are too easy, and the laws do not cover the data created by the transaction; and in many ways the government has made easier to work with the credit card than with anonymous cash. (Such as the paper work when dealing with any amount of money over $10,000 dollars).
Sorry for being so disjoined, but this nation really does need a privacy czar; the wants of the corporation must be balance with the privacy of the consumer.

Is this the same McNealy who... (2)

Otis_INF (130595) | more than 13 years ago | (#191454)

was very against Microsoft's HailStorm initiative because that system would hurt the privacy of the users?


McNealy's quote (2)

The Pim (140414) | more than 13 years ago | (#191456)

"You have zero privacy" is true in a precise sense (which is I think what McNealy meant), and it has nothing to do with the Internet. It means that if someone really wants to find out something (anything) about you, he can. This has always been true for everyone except the most deliberate recluses.

The situation is analogous to computer security: there are a zillion non-obvious paths of attack, so unless you've designed the system with scrupulous attention to security, one of them will find a crack. Have you controlled every channel of information about yourself since before you were born? If not, "you have zero privacy" in that anyone determined can find an "exploit". I don't know how to find out information about people, but I bet once you know, it's child's play (like writing buffer overrun exploits).

I'm not saying that there is no cause for concern about the loss of privacy; I'm saying there's not much you can do about it, so "get over it". Think about how much effort it takes to make a single purchase at Amazon [] without compromising your privacy. Now, think about how relatively benign Amazon's abuse of privacy is, compared to what someone really nasty could do. I just think this battle isn't worth fighting.

Comming from the CEO of Sun ... (2)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 13 years ago | (#191457)

... which happens to be a company that sells machines which can be used in Data Mining all that juicy costumer information.
The more info about costumers is available the more and bigger machines are needed to mine it.

Plus: It is believed by some that to be sucessfull as an e-business (or an m-business) companies need provide personalized services to costumers. The more information a company has, the more targeted can be the services.
Who do you think wants to sell machines to run all those Costumer Relationship Management programs?

I'd say McNealy No! (2)

Lozzer (141543) | more than 13 years ago | (#191458)

Learn something from history. Don't let an industry self regulate on something it makes no direct profit over. Privacy policies need to be backed by such legislation as

  • What recourse do I have if you break your policy
  • You cannot change your policy without letting me opt out
  • If you go under you can't sell my details, no matter how big a vice your gonads may be in

I'm sure people can fill in others

Re:Ugh, people, have you not realized yet? (3)

Bitter Cup O Joe (146008) | more than 13 years ago | (#191459)

The problem is that trolls, even though they my not realize it, sometimes have good points. And because they usually take the point of view diametrically opposite the average slashdot reader, in order to enrage them, sometimes these points are the one that need to be heard most so that slashdot doesn't become (remain?) just another old boy network.

Harrumph (1)

Blackheart2 (161473) | more than 13 years ago | (#191463)

This article starts off with a loaded question (Q:"do you really want to be completely anonymous?") and uses the no-brainer answer to draw unwarranted conclusions. Obviously no one wants to be a complete nobody; but that doesn't mean we want Joe Q. Citizen peeping into our bedrooms. This is not far from one of those abortion/meat-is-murder arguments. "Do you approve of murder?" "No." "Then why are you murdering babies/animals?!?"

The online environment provides more privacy protections, not fewer. Online, you can encrypt things and provide conditional access. Yes, you could, if it remained in your possession, or you could somehow retain control over the information you give out; but you can't. Once it's gone, the holder's incompetence is your privacy's demise. And these days even apparently competent companies are getting cracked. That would be OK if you could pick and choose who you give your information to, but nowadays people want all sorts of information on you which is irrelevant, even for the most piddling transactions, and is later used only to target you for marketing purposes.

I have agreed to let my car company, for instance, track my every move through GPS satellites. Whoop-dee-doo. McNealy already gave up most of his privacy when he decided to become a loud-mouthed celebrity CEO. Once you go that far, relinquishing the rest of your privacy is not a big step.

So far, the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself. Where has this guy been the last two years? The amount of spam in my mailbox every morning, the most recent credit card crack headline, the opt-out/opt-in controversy, the passing on of private information from companies that get bought out---they all tell me otherwise.

On the Internet, even more than in other areas of our lives, trust is the real currency. Squander what you have and you'll find out how hard it can be to get more. Yeah, that works for large, well-established corporations like Sun, but it sounds like it would put smaller start-ups in a "you need credit to get credit" situation.


Privacy (1)

Fat Rat Bastard (170520) | more than 13 years ago | (#191465)

I know that there's no such thing as 100%, absolute privacy, and I recognize that privacy online does actually cost money. But I wonder how gung-ho folks like McNeely and his ilk (any captain of industry, esp. the IT industry) would be if someone was to collect and post all of Scott's personal information (legally collected from the web) in one location for all the world to see. Stuff like McNeely's SSN, address, income, wife's name, children, where those kids go to school, stuff he bought in the last year, etc. I what he'd be so gung ho about the loss of privacy then.

If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

What horrid examples (2)

swm (171547) | more than 13 years ago | (#191467)

your Web-enabled wireless phone will be able to recommend a nearby restaurant...and then make your reservation for you.

It could even recommend a movie based on what you liked and didn't like in the past -- and, by the way, it's playing three blocks away, starts in half an hour and only a few tickets are left, so would you like to purchase one now with your credit card?

This is just about the worst way to use computers. People are good at these things, and computers are bad at them.

See Why Smart Agents Are A Dumb Idea [] for further analysis.

Sun's anti-privacy policy enforced by NFS (2)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 13 years ago | (#191473)

As a former Sun employee, I'd like to point out that at Sun, they have a long standing tradition of reading each others email. That's why McNealy doesn't believe in privacy.

Sun developed and promulgated NFS, which stands for No File Security. As it was originally shipped, it was ridiculously trivial to break into NFS. When an NFS client tried to mount a file system from an NFS server, in the request the CLIENT would TELL the SERVER what its host name was, and the server would BELIEVE it, and only check it against the list of allowed hosts in /etc/exports. Whatever hostname the client CLAIMED it was, the server BELIEVED it without question or bothering to check the IP address. So if you wanted to mount any NFS file system with full read/write permissions, all you had to do was find out one of the host names in the NFS server's /etc/exports (say "doober", which was the name of Scott McNealy's workstation), and go "hostname doober ; mount securemailserver:/ /mnt", and you would have complete access to the server.

I found this out when I was a summer intern at Sun in '87. Most of the engineers at Sun knew about NFS's complete lack of security, and thought it was hillarious and convenient, and many used it to get their work done as well as to read each others email and private files. But Sun would still fire anyone who got caught, or read the wrong manager's scheming email and warned the victims about it.

Sun thought their customers should have the same convenience, so they shipped NFS with that wonderful security hole enabled by default, so anybody in the internet could guess or use tftp to get a copy of an NFS server's /etc/exports file, and mount any NFS directory from any NFS server on the Internet.

One of Sun's biggest government customers is the NSA, and I'm sure they appreciated that feature in NFS. Sun has utter contempt for most of their customers, but makes an exception for the NSA, whose ass they kiss on a regular basis (they have a big department dedicated to that onerous task).

[Disclosure: I quit my job at Sun in '91, when they told me repeat their prima facie lies to our customers about the future of NeWS.]

NFS is quite a convenient security hole, huh? That's the real meaning behind "the network is the computer" and "open systems": the computer is insecure, therefore the whole network is a wide "open system". The slogan "write once, run everywhere" should be rephrased: "Write once, there's nowhere to run".

When Scott McNealy says "get over your privacy", it's for his own profit and convenience, because the NSA told him to say it.


Who do you trust (3)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#191474)

To cut to the chase:

The point is, for that level of service, most people would gladly reveal their personal preferences, as long as they feel certain the information won't be misused. On the Internet, even more than in other areas of our lives, trust is the real currency. Squander what you have and you'll find out how hard it can be to get more.

I know that I have real privacy issues with many companies. That is why I use things like webmail and dummy browser proflies. If nothing else, if they scam the email address from the browser, they spam someone I don't like [joke!]

if you took a random poll, you would likely find that the list of companies that people trust is a bit shorter than the list of compnaies theat they do not trust.

Companies do not realize how precious the commodity of trust is. Squander it, and you will have people painting you as the devil decades later.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

Re:Actually, it does not. (2)

YKnot (181580) | more than 13 years ago | (#191475)

Some electronics device triggers the gas cartridge in the airbag. You rely on that mechanism to work, why not rely on the other one as well? I suspect the number of false positives would be way to high if loss of signal were interpreted as an accident.

The i-currency (2)

YKnot (181580) | more than 13 years ago | (#191476)

You heard about the information society and about how information would be valuable. All the time you thought they were talking about movies, songs, books, or news. You have since wondered why you were given so much information for free on the internet. Only to now recognize that it wasn't movies which they were calling valuable information. They were talking about you. The data that is the customer, the employee, the voter. Information is not entertainment, it is a control instrument.

Insightful? (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 13 years ago | (#191478)

Clearly this is bait. Very well written bait (save for the token gun-ownership button-pushing), but bait nonetheless.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 13 years ago | (#191479)

Rights include "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I require privacy to pursue my happinness with a minimum of embarrassment/legal trouble.

Seriously, though, haven't there always been hermits and misanthropes who migrate deep into the woods (or high into the hills) to avoid any unwelcome contact with others? Didn't Siddhartha spend a few years alone in that cave? If he had no right to privacy, who would've been within their right to set up a webcam there?

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

perlyking (198166) | more than 13 years ago | (#191480)

I wish moderators would spot trolls, come on the post doesnt even make sense in itself.
If you look at simple stone age peoples, they do not hanker after privacy - they have no idea what it is. It is a western concept, and one we are forcing on the rest of the world, as we make the thrird world adopt our values.

It doesnt even makes sense - you cant look at stone age people because nobody knows if they liked privacy or not. Privacy a western concept - pure crap, if anything eastern cultures are MORE interested in privacy. The whole post doesnt make any sense

The irony is I used my mod points up this morning or I would have given a -1 troll instead of getting steamed up :-)

Re:Some Good Points (1)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 13 years ago | (#191483)

>How does a computer thousands of miles away knowing that you're
>interested in travel, politics, and fine art *really* affect your
>life, except that the spam you receive is tailored for your
>interests, instead of being completely random?

It doesn't matter whether the computer's in Siberia, or two blocks down the road. Your theoretical computer which knows my tastes stores those tastes in a database, and that database exists for one purpose. To be accessed. Accessed by who? That's what I don't know, and that's why I don't like it.

>People are naturally observant by nature. When you go out in public,
>you notice what people are doing, wearing, saying, etc. After a
>while, you come to conclusions based on those observations. Have you
>invaded those people's privacy?

Yes, if you returned home and wrote all of those facts down in a dossier. Seeing someone wearing Dockers (and presuming he likes Dockers), or someone who's eating pizza (and presuming he likes pizza) isn't the same as storing that information for later retrieval. You're never going to see most of those people again, and you're likely not going to be selling their preferences to someone else, either.

>A library keeps track of what books people are reading so that
>they can keep their library stocked with books that will be useful
>or interesting to the local population. Have they invaded those
>people's privacy?

Yes, if those records contain a list of all the books I've ever checked out. Why do they have to know who checked out the books to figure out whether or not people are interested in them? A list that says "400 people checked out books about Topic A," without keeping track of who checked those books out, is just as effective at determining what books to stock in the library. The bookstore figures out what to stock based on how well stuff sells, not based on who's doing the buying.


I'm always surprised... (1)

lfourrier (209630) | more than 13 years ago | (#191486) the samples given.
They're is a mix between life and death issues, where a little less privacy can be an efficient mean to provide a better vital service, and instinct buying, based on the more and more repeated conception that the consumer need to consume to be happy.
Go out and get a life!
Perhaps, you miss business oportunities, but I tend to think those are opportunities only for businesses.
My main criticism is that we have a system where the corporate entity has more and more power and protection, and the human person less and less.

Hmm, it does not sound like he is PRO Big Brother (1)

Manitcor (218753) | more than 13 years ago | (#191488)

From the article (if you read it):

Properly administered, the online environment offers more privacy protections, not fewer. Online, you can encrypt things and provide conditional access. You can know where your files are and who's looking at them through audit trails. Try that with a paper file.

On this I agree this should go right along with OptIns and OptOut policies. There are lots of features and conviences technology can bring us but in order for them to do so they will need some presonal information.

As long as we are able to control that information ourselvs as well as know who has access to and who has seen our information then I belive that this can be a good thing.

Of course I am speaking in terms of a "dream world" currently as most of our technology and legistrative processes have yet to develop to provide this however these are the initiatives we should take.

No man/woman is an island unless he chooses to be. We should build things not to one extreme or another but to one where each man/woman has the choice and power of controll and audting over thier own data.

Discuss, Argue (Intelligently), no flames

Privacy, Preferences, and Computers (1)

Foggy Tristan (220356) | more than 13 years ago | (#191490)

So far, various replies have made it clear that Scott Macneal's examples all have counterparts that would allow for privacy while still meeting the needs of the human.

It's nice to see the GPS example refuted; essentially, Scott's arguing for all of us to wear tracking devices. (After all, if I get lost on foot, wouldn't I want the same service. Maybe if my shoe's deflate from being too pumped up.)

It's nice to see the medical example refuted; which is more convenient: a medical bracelet with the pertinent stuff on it, or a medical file that has to be transmitted across a network and browsed through, after they figure out who I am.

The personal preferences examples I'll ask a question, albeit somewhat off-topic: How many of us really eat the same type of cuisine day-in, day-out, and never try something new? I usually opt for what sounds intriguing that day...whether I've ever tried it or not. This way, I can broaden my tastes and have a better scope of criteria for selecting things in the future. The device Scott suggests would not only be useless to me, but annoying. The same goes with movies: if I hated Armageddon, would my little electronic buddy skipped over Pearl Harbor. If I liked Usual Suspects, would my little buddy have recommend Urban Legends 2.

By always limiting oneself to recommendations based on what you've done, it would seem like this could stagnate personal growth and experience. And I'm more worried about that than my privacy anyday.

-Foggy, feeling way too much like a Luddite these days

motivations. (2)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 13 years ago | (#191494)

It could even recommend a movie based on what you liked and didn't like in the past -- and, by the way, it's playing three blocks away, starts in half an hour and only a few tickets are left, so would you like to purchase one now with your credit card?

so, essentially, i'm expected to give up chunks of information about my life because it's too inconvenient to ask for directions? yeah, right.

please tell me there's other motivations.

also, why is it that mr mcnealy assumes that the information will be secure if you just want it to be? the example of the medical records at the beginning assumes everything is stored and retrieved perfectly according to plan. i would think that with his experience, he realizes that everything breaks and that there is no real security either.

'course, that probably wouldn't sell too many sun boxen...


Relf Regulation (2)

hillct (230132) | more than 13 years ago | (#191495)

McNealy says:
So far the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself
This may be true, and as he clains, there is a business incentive to protect the privacy of your customers, in order to retain them as customers. The problem with this is that as technology progresses, it becomes increasingly more difficult for customers to take steps to insure they are only doing business with reputable companies that institute tuch practices. Self-regulation of online privacy practices will probably work as well as self-regulation in the Direct Mail Marketing industry. The Direct Mail Association, and industry trade group walks the thin line of doing the absolute minimum to protect consumers rights while at the same time, going to lawmakers saying 'Look what we're doing to protect consumers!'.

While it's true there's a business incentive to self-regulate, this only works in industries where there are high bariers to entry (ie: there is market concentration). In cases where there are such high bariers to entry, the chances, the costs associated with market entry will deter unscrupulous indeviduals and companies because the amrket is not one where they could cut and run if their practices were discovered to be too questionable.

Online business has torn down the bariers to entry for many businesses and markets where previously, the high bariers to entry, made thode markets condusive to self-regulation.

A great deal more care needs to be taken before making blanket statements like McNealy has here...


Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

ffsnjb (238634) | more than 13 years ago | (#191496)

The constitution gives us rights so the government can not strip us of them, although constituents are losing their grip on the ability to keep the government from circumventing the right to our rights.

As far as my second amendment rights to bear arms are concerned, yes, I have that right. That right is slowly being stripped. But it's also backed by the right to property. The reason you we're able to post your comment is because of your right to private property. As far as the constitution is concerned, the government can not take away my property, and since MY guns are MY property, they will not get them, no matter how hard they try. If the US existed by your logic, you wouldn't have posted your opinion because there would be nothing for you to post it with.

Just a note, I am a NRA Life Member, and damn proud of it.

Scott Sells Servers by the Seashore - 3X Fast!! (1)

CrazyLegs (257161) | more than 13 years ago | (#191502)

Ok, I like McNealy. He's a hoot. But what special insight has he got into this issue? I think the article looks bad on him. Consider:

  • central storage for personal info is not inherently safer. For one thing, it's on a network with a (potentially) very visible address. As well, the public has no real clues about how their data is managed, accessed, etc. in accordance with any privacy policy.
  • banking is a bad example (I know 'cause I work for one). Your data may not be compromised or divulged to a 3rd party, but you can be sure your bank is doing sophisticated segmentation and behaviour analysis based on your banking patterns, etc. This is just as bad a breach of privacy in my mind.
  • I don't need any friggin' PDA hooked up with some personalization technology to suggest restaurants and the like! Machines that try do do our thinking for us are - at best - annoying and redundant and - at worst - dangerous to personal liberty.

Ol' Scotty M. may be right that we don't have the privacy we think we do, but computers (and the humans who drive them) really aren't as smart and far-reaching as he'd have as all believe. In the end, I think I'll protect my privacy whereever I can, thank-you. The unsavoury alternative is to roll over and eat the French cusine my PDA suggested rather than pizza I really crave right now.

Re:Some Good Points (3)

CrazyLegs (257161) | more than 13 years ago | (#191503)

Dude, I've done market analysis for a paycheque and I gotta disagree on a few points...

The fact that company X happens to know that customer ID 939392-2349493-1343 likes to play ping-pong on Tuesday nights and prefers green pullovers to blue is not equivalent to being spied upon. The information is used in an abstract fashion: crunching statistics, determining customer needs, etc. Not one person at DoubleClick or any other "Big Brother" company gives a flying flip at a rolling donut *what* you do in your spare time.

Actually, many companies DO care if you care if you play ping-pong on Tuesday nights. If this is regular behaviour, maybe you'd like to buy our new PADDLE2000. Or maybe you'd like some coupons for a local restaurant chain 'cause you must be eating out on Tuesday nights on your way to ping-pong. Or maybe you'd be interested in donating some dough to a local youth ping-pong team so it can realize its dream of playing in China. Get the drift?

How does a computer thousands of miles away knowing that you're interested in travel, politics, and fine art *really* affect your life, except that the spam you receive is tailored for your interests, instead of being completely random?

Good point, but it belies the basic concept around privacy. I don't care how inocuous the intent. The fact that someone has info about ME that I didn't give them is inherently a breac hof my privacy. Idon't know about you, but I don't need spam to tell me where to find the things I'm interested in, thanks.

People are naturally observant by nature. When you go out in public, you notice what people are doing, wearing, saying, etc. After a while, you come to conclusions based on those observations. Have you invaded those people's privacy? A library keeps track of what books people are reading so that they can keep their library stocked with books that will be useful or interesting to the local population. Have they invaded those people's privacy? The notion that what someone is doing is EVIL because they are company is absurd, yet that seems to be the party line here on Slashdot.

Public domain info (what you wear, what you say within earshot of a stranger) is not a privacy issue at all since its in MY control of where I go what I wear, what I say, etc. A library does not simply stock what people like - otherwise we'd have libraries chock full of trashy books by Danielle Steele and the like. Libraries (through the highly-trained librarians that run them) build collections that reflect the gamut of human knowledge (and, yes, that includes pop culture). Again, this is irrelevant to the privacy issue.

Privacy issues in the information age are not about stunted emotional adoloescence or libertarianism or anarchist fantasies. Rather, they're about maintaining a sense of Self and Humanity in a world where these concepts are withering.

Re:Read between the lines.. (1)

derekb (262726) | more than 13 years ago | (#191506)

Damn.. hit the submit button instead of preview.. meant to say that Scott exercised his shares last year and made 20 million. Looks like the privacy-concerned (note sarcasm) NSA was sweet to him last year.

I'm a big Sun fan though.. don't get me wrong.

Read between the lines.. (2)

derekb (262726) | more than 13 years ago | (#191507)

Ok.. we know for a fact the NSA is a big fan and spends a lot of money at Sun (although they are not allowed to disclose how much of their income comes from the NSA)

We know that Echelon is out there spying on everyone anyway. That's a lot of E10000 and massive disk arrays.

Scott wants to sell more stock:
05/02/00Mcnealy, Scott G. Chairman Exercised229,8561.38 317,201 option 05/02/00Mcnealy, Scott G. Chairman Sale229,85691.0720,932,985com D 27,743,797 (from =SUNW )

Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#191510)

People in America, I have noticed, seem to think that privacy is some sort of fundamental right, when in fact it is socially constructed. If you look at simple stone age peoples, they do not hanker after privacy - they have no idea what it is. It is a western concept, and one we are forcing on the rest of the world, as we make the thrird world adopt our values.

It seems to me that privacy is only desired by those who have something to hide. Furthermore, everyone pretends to be squeeky clean, which means that we have unrealistic expectations of others.

In the future, privacy will not exist. This will create a more sane society - politicians will not be expected to be perfect, we will have more realistic expectations. We will be able to check up on our prospective spouses, find out everything about them before even meeting. It will be a wonderful way of meeting new people and finding love.

The transparent society that is coming will mark the ascendance of our species. In the beginning we were innocent and naked and had no privacy, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, naked but for a fig leave each. Later, with the rise of agriculture, information became power and the notion of privacy as an absolute right was eventually invented (about as absurd as stating that gun ownership is a 'right').

This is not the case. The only rights we can have are truly fundamental - the right to life, for example.

As we evolve forward into our new Eden, where privacy once again will be a silly idea and we can frolic openly and honestly, we must remember the ills that privacy has caused.

Privacy is not a right, it is a manufactured abomination, a cover for the dishonest and unnatural.

Don't Amazon me, I can do a search. (1)

TAFKA (301134) | more than 13 years ago | (#191512)

I've heard this idea before, and always fails to impress me... that if devices learn our tastes they will provide useful services like suggesting dining spots, hotels, etc. This approach to filling your life with more of the same is totally not what people want, it is what the gee-whiz prognosticators think people will want. They're full of it. If I'm in Chicago and I like Chinese food, I can do a simple search and find a list of restaurants in very little time, without anything profiling my tastes and "predicting" what I will want. Yet another cousin of Clippy and MS Bob, if you ask me. Blow it out yer A-'OLe

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (2)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 13 years ago | (#191513)

I can't believe people modded this up to +5 at one point?! First off, let me reply to this statement you made:

In the beginning we were innocent and naked and had no privacy, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, naked but for a fig leave each.

If you had actually recounted this Biblical story correctly, you would have known that Adam and Eve were completely naked (no coverings what-so-ever) until they were tempted by Satan, the Devil, the Evil One, Lucifer (whatever you want to call him), and then they sinned by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God told them not to do. He wanted them to not have to know what evil was. It was at this point, when they gained knowledge of good AND evil (before that they only knew good according to the Biblical story), that they realized they were completely naked, became ashamed, and covered themselves with the 'fig leaves', partly because they knew they had done that which God told them not to, hence, they were ashamed.

You are right in saying that privacy is not a right. So why do we want it? Because we all DO have something to hide, because we've ALL made mistakes and are ashamed of them. Or at the very least, we're pretty good, and we don't want other people (like Credit Agencies) making mistakes with our data and ruining our lives.

And as to your other statement: (about as absurd as stating that gun ownership is a 'right').

Of course it's not a right! It's written into the Constitution as a priveledge of our freedom in this country. It's a responsibility to use a gun or firearm properly, and unfortunately, too many people, like you apparently, think that the majority of people who own a gun just don't need it. Tell that to the little old ladies, moms, and dads of this nation who want to protect their families, and themselves, from violent drug addicts trying to rob their homes in the middle of the night.

Re:Actually, it does not. (1)

banuaba (308937) | more than 13 years ago | (#191515)

The airbag detonation system is (or at least was five years ago when I learned about them) far simpler than a GPS. The airbag is basically a switch or two attatched to a very small bomb, whereas the GPS is this complicated electronical doodad that has a mugh higher number of failable components. I'd trust the bag over the GPS.


privacy policies (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 13 years ago | (#191516)

So far the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself. Most companies now post formal privacy policies on their Web sites and allow visitors to have a say in how information about them is used.

It is unreasonable to expect people to read pages and pages of fine print every time they go to a new site. And just having a privacy policy doesn't equate to having a good or fair privacy policy. Also - how much is that policy going to be worth when the website goes bust?

People need a clear understanding of what their rights are wrt privacy, and therefore what they can expect from each and every body that holds their details. Without legislative backing industries cannot be trusted to be self-regulating.

Say it with me - the private sector exists only to generate profit for its shareholders. All other considerations are secondary. So long as privacy has monetary value, it will be open to exploitation.

I don't get it... (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 13 years ago | (#191518)

Granted, there is certain information you don't want people to know about necessarily... such as your medical history, your income, your financial status in general, your social security #... things that, if found out by someone, could cause you a lot of trouble. However, there are things which just do not make a sh*t of difference. What kind of movies or music you like... or where you are in the country. Why do you care, really, if someone knows where you are as you travel? You have something to hide? And who cares if some company knows that Robert De Niro is my favorite actor! Sure, if Paramount wants to notify me that he's in a new movie coming out, YES, I'd want to go see it... so tell me. It's funny. One thing I realized from the Matrix... a line said by Agent Smith was something similar to "we made everything perfect, but you rebelled because you couldn't believe it was so good." This is what you're thinking... your thought process is "if they can track me they know where i'm always at and they're gonna track me down and it's an invasion of my rights." There are how many people in this country? Let's say, for figures sake, if you had 1 million people the Gov't was tracking around the country... and let's say a single person could track 100 people (I dunno depends on the person on what they're doing this number could fluctuate, probably be even lower)... it would take 1000 people, 1000 GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES WITH SALARIES to track those 1 million people. And guess what, there is a HELL of a lot more than 1 million people in the country... or the world (6 billion in the world... that's about 60,000,000 people *watching* and paid to do so) God! That's expensive! Give them a decent salary of let's say $15/hr that's like... $900,000,000 per hour... or $1,872,000,000,000 PER YEAR. That's right.. almost 2 trillion dollars just so each and every one of us can be watched. And ya know what's even more erroneous? You really think they could keep 60 million people from TELLING on "big brother"? You don't think that SOMEONE would rat out the see'er of all? Even if 1% were to rat out, that would be like 600,000 people! Wholly shit! Some religions don't have that many people! In other words, GET OVER IT.

I think you need to flash your brain's firmware.

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (3)

CrackElf (318113) | more than 13 years ago | (#191520)

People in America, I have noticed, seem to think that privacy is some sort of fundamental right

And of course, no one in Europe or anywhere else for that matter desire privacy.

Information is power. Information can be used for good. It can also be used for malicious purposes. The question is who do you trust with that power. I do not trust the corporations. Nor do I trust the government.

Since the advent of society, the communication allowed people to disagree. With that came judgment and persecution. While I do not believe that the things that I do are immoral, someone else may. I should not have to suffer under their persecution. Just as you should not have to suffer for being (whatever you are), I should not have to suffer for being a left wing non-religious type. Yet, that is not the way of the world, as people wage their wars of prejudice and try to make other people bend to their will. If my boss found out that I am not a Christian, he might fire me (his being a right wing conservative Christian type who believes that those that think differently than him should be destroyed).

This is not right according to my morals. According to my moral code, a person should be judged on how they do their job ... not what creed, nationality, sex, or race they belong to... acording to my moral code, it is none of his business what my religion is.

Perhaps if there were better ways of preserving a persons right to, say, worship whatever god they wanted to ... and if everyone agreed to a single moral code, it might be possible to say that privacy is not needed... But I have yet to meet even two people that agree 100% on morality.

The ills that Christians (and yes, it was a religious as well as political party) did to Jewish People during the 2nd world war could have been prevented if the government did not know who the Jewish People were. The lack of this 'silly idea' has cost lives.

I agree that back in the stone age there was no privacy. I also agree that privacy is a social construct. But, so is religion, as religion is an organization. So are words. So are numbers. Everything used to communicate can be categorized as a social construct (and therefor unnatural). If you want to go and live without running water, toilet paper, computers, books (including your bible), and the ability to communicate around the globe ... you go right ahead. As for anyone that lives in this social structure, there are real issues to address. Such as privacy.


Why should you... (1)

kalleanka2 (318385) | more than 13 years ago | (#191521)

...have more privacy online than in real life?

Why should you be able to harass people or doing various types of crimes with the possibility of being anonymous?

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

kalleanka2 (318385) | more than 13 years ago | (#191522)

I don't agree with your statement that privacy should not exist; I think some privacy is a right.

However, I don't think that the possibility to be anonymous is good either. You shouldn't be able to write threats, harass people or committing crimes online under anonymous accounts.

A bit less anonymity online would be a good thing.

Stat crunching ok, warrant for arrest !ok (1)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | more than 13 years ago | (#191525)

What if the government starts making more dumb laws? Then they find out you're downloading Gameboy Pocketpull roms. Then they come to your house and arrest you for a few years. There are actually lots of dumb laws out there already, and lots of people in prison from these dumb laws.

The matter of choice... (1)

zloppy303 (411053) | more than 13 years ago | (#191526)

Sure, it would be nice if my cellular would tell me if my preferred type of restaurant is nearby, but what if i wanted to try something different than french, italian or mexican?? And what's wrong with pulling up a list of restaurants on your cellular and choosing one yourself?

Same holds for the movie-example, plus another thing comes to mind here: most good movies are the ones that are completely different from the ones you've seen before, so based on your previous cinema-visits you're going to see the same type of movies over and over...

Mr. McNealy (cowboy Nealy?? :) ) gives (bad) examples that are only convincing to lazy people who don't want to decide for themselves (ie. M$ costumers...), if he thinks that consumers are like that,well imho then he is no better than Bill Gates!

Re:Privacy is a dying concept. (1)

jay42 (413000) | more than 13 years ago | (#191528)

Privacy is not a right, it is a manufactured abomination, a cover for the dishonest and unnatural.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [] reads :

Article 12 No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.

This declaration is supposed to be our ideal as a responsible society. Now of course you might want to disagree, but remember that "the disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts" as the declaration reads in the preamble.

Ambulance driver ? (2)

jay42 (413000) | more than 13 years ago | (#191529)

From the article:

Take medical records. If you're in an accident, do you want an ambulance driver to be able to access your medical records online? I think you do.

I would prefer that the ambulance driver focuses on the driving rather than trying to access my medical record online. At least I would have a better chance to be alive when the ambulance arrives in the hospital ;-)

Dystopia (3)

aristotle2000 (415164) | more than 13 years ago | (#191532)

What he fails to mention is that your preferences are going to be supplemented by paying clients of the personalized services. Sure, your personal area network devices might suggest a nearby restaurant, but you can bet that the restaurant suggested has paid for its favorable placement... And, even more disturbing, do we want corporations, governments, and more nefarious organizations knowing all about us? Who's to say that data theives, terrorists, over-zealous law enforcement, etc, won't divine ways to steal information about us and use it in ways that are not to our advantage? What if our data suggests we are not supportive of the current regime? Might party appartichs use that info to subvert our influence, attempt to change our minds, or silence us if we become too vocal? What if we want to strike back at tyranny, either corporate or federal through boycotts, protests, our other extreme means in the future? Our prefences, from book selections, to taverns, to affliations might rat us out and lead the protectors of such organizations against us, even before we've raised a finger. Our data is ours; the good of profiling does not outwiegh the potential evil.

personalization? (1)

redcup (441955) | more than 13 years ago | (#191533)

"I have agreed to let my car company, for instance, track my every move through GPS satellites. Some people might consider that an invasion of privacy, but I find it comforting to know that, should my air bag deploy, they know where I am and can send help."

What he fails to mention is they will send lawyers, an airbag repair service and a tollbooth squeegee guy long before they refer any medical personal to the scene.


in a perfect world (1)

spacefem (443435) | more than 13 years ago | (#191534)

What the author of this article doesn't mention is that although information is convenient, information is also power and anyone who has information about you has a potentially dangerous power to use that to their advantage. In a perfect world, having our medical records and the fact that we like movies about space invasion out for the world to see would work okay. In the real world, there are bad people, dangerous people, who aren't going to use that information for your advantage. We need to protect ourselves, the world can be an evil place and we've been making sacrifices to account for that since the beginning of time. (it's why communism fails as well, but that's an entirely different post.)

The problem I have with personalisation... (1)

PYves (449297) | more than 13 years ago | (#191535)

is that it suddenly becomes even easier for companies to decide what we like by being suggestive.

I don't trust an industry where they produce movies like pearl harbour and music like Britney Spears to decide what I like, and lord knows they keep trying to tell me.


Re:All he says is WE should be able to.. (3)

Blue Aardvark House (452974) | more than 13 years ago | (#191538)

You mean like I can choose to have an unlisted number, or a listed one in the phone book?

The sad part is, you have to PAY for this privilege of privacy.

The bottom line: Private information has become a commodity, to be bought and sold.

Re:Scott is an extremist (1)

GPLwhore (455583) | more than 13 years ago | (#191542)

Slow down here.
Knowing that somebody is an alcoholic or has a cancer that will prevent her/him from working has nothing to do with "personal prejudices."
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