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Privacy is a Biological Imperative?

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the only-for-some dept.

Privacy 181

sevej writes "As a lead-in to an article in the August 2007 issue, Scientific American recently published an interview with Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Latanya Sweeney regarding the trade-offs between security and privacy. Dr. Sweeney provides a refreshing counter-point to Sun Microsystems CEO, Scott McNealy's 'famous quip', 'Privacy is dead. Get over it.' She advocates the idea that privacy is not primarily a political expediency, but rather a biological one. Suggesting that technological design doesn't have to take a 'soup OR salad' approach, she calls for changes in the way present and future computer scientists are trained. Dr. Sweeney is quoted as saying, 'I think if we are successful in producing a new breed of engineers and computer scientists, society will really benefit. The whole technology-dialectics thing is really aiming at how you should go about teaching engineers and computer scientists to think about user acceptance and social adoption [and also that they] have to think about barriers to technology [from the beginning].'"

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181 comments

Scientific Proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848343)

Caveman A: "You leave that shit in the front lawn and it's going to get stolen!"
Caveman B: "Yeah, yeah, I'll move the carcass in the cave after the Price is Right is over."

Re:Scientific Proof (2, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 years ago | (#19849511)

The big thing about privacy, it lets people live with illusions. That's pretty important to a lot of people.

There are a lot of people in positions of power and authority who do not deserve to be there, and are only there because they've tricked everyone around them.

Those people are not going to be advantaged by the inevitable loss of privacy.

The more influence they have, the more they are wielding their power with flagrant disregard for their fellows, the more that the truth will hurt them.

None of this, however, means that we're better off with things the way they are.

Re:Scientific Proof (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849863)

Generally, the privacy we are discussing is not that of those people in positions of power and authority. They are the very people most likely to implement and control surveillance technologies. It behooves us to learn about these tech and learn how to deploy them effectively, ad-hoc, in a more democratic fashion.

The article mentions tracking the movements of homeless people anonymously, for instance, and more broadly discusses how privacy concerns must be considered while developing these tech rather than trying to legislate solutions after the fact. It will be a long time before we are able to peer into the corporate boardrooms on the upper reaches of cable, but we should consider what information we might not know about ourselves, how it will be discovered, and how this might affect us, in terms of our liberties and the communities we live in.

Re:Scientific Proof (1)

MindKata (957167) | about 7 years ago | (#19849941)

"Scientific Proof" & "Caveman"

No, the fault in her logic, is simply apparent ignorance about the business world. I use the word ignorance not to cause offence, but to simply highlight a lack of understand of issues outside of her spheres of core knowledge. She is a "Carnegie Mellon computer scientist", and its not the first (and most likely not the last) time, I will hear a university scientist show a lack of understanding of the business world.

"she calls for changes in the way present and future computer scientists are trained."

Yeah, great, but one problem. Programmers in be corporations most usually don't call the shots. They are told what to write. (I say this as a programmer with 27 years experience of the business world).

"more influence they have, the more they are wielding their power with flagrant disregard for their fellows"

Yeah, unfortunately that's so often true.

The only solution to preventing the erosion of privacy will need to be a legal solution, setting laws in place to prevent people (and companies) data mining the hell out of everyone. However I have no faith in such a law every working. Because of one simple fact, which is an ever present pressure against any law working.

Its like the old saying, "Knowledge Is Power" ... so until that stops being true, some people are going to data mine the hell out of everyone else.

Re:Scientific Proof (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 years ago | (#19850137)

The thing is, they're not going to stop data mining, any more than you would wear blinders walking around because I like to privately sunbathe on my front lawn.

Privacy is dead.

Policy makers and people in the public eye who fight for privacy at this point aren't fighting for privacy. It's gone. They know. What they're fighting for at this point is the right to keep you ignorant, and keep making their mutually-assured-destruction back-room deals.

It's only because of the ignorance, gullibility and flat out stupidity of the larger population that this topic is even being treated as something worthy of debate... because it really already is a moot point.

Yarrrr! (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 7 years ago | (#19848381)

I told ye I had grog in me veins.
Yo ho ho a pirates life for me!

Avast!

Ohhh, you said Privacy

Re:Yarrrr! (1)

antdude (79039) | about 7 years ago | (#19849869)

Funny, I also thought it said piracy because I just woke up. :)

Biology would be pro-active defense, not reactive (4, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | about 7 years ago | (#19848445)

If someone is a biological imperative, we would be proactive about defending ourselves to protect our biological functions. If you're cold, you shiver. If you're still cold, you put on clothes. If you don't, you die.

If you're thirsty, your mouth gets dry. You drink water. If you don't, you die.

There is no biological response, yet, to keeping your information private. When you get a new credit card, do you read the contract that is included with the application? It's all there. When you install new software, do you read the contract? It's all there.

If you don't like a contract because it gives up what you consider private information, don't sign it. If you feel you need the item or service, find an outlet selling it that won't breach your privacy. It's quite simple. If there is no outlet for that service without giving up what you deem important, find out why. Many times it is State-intrusion in a market that creates a monopolistic cartel of providers. Don't blame that market for the privacy issues, blame your government that created the cartel (mercantilism, not capitalism).

Privacy to me is useless. I can't think of one reason why I need or require complete privacy. If someone wants to peep on my wife and I in bed, I close the shades. Big deal. Financially, it already makes little to no sense to have personal credit or a good personal credit score, because of past government interventions. I still track my credit report monthly, and am alerted to changes. If someone wants to try to steal my identity, let them try -- I already have an inexpensive insurance plan against identity theft. Privacy, to me, is irrelevant in my life.

What is important is the freedom for me to work the way I want to work, and have fun the way I want to have fun. If either of those issues "become public," so be it -- they're who I am. If someone doesn't want to work with me because of what I like to do, so be it, they're free to associate or disassociate with me. What do I have to hide?

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848555)

"I can't think of one reason why I need or require complete privacy."

Have you ever tried to fill a sample bottle with medical staff in the same room? My biology at least doesn't seem to want to play ball!

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (4, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | about 7 years ago | (#19848603)

Actually, those examples you gave in the beginning of your post still indicates a reactive response. Being proactive means you bring a sweater along when you see a predicted decrease in temperature on the weather report, or you bring along a bottle of water because you know it's hot and you'll be thirsty.

I can't think of one reason why I need or require complete privacy. If someone wants to peep on my wife and I in bed, I close the shades.


I find that funny. So why do you close the shades then if you don't need privacy? What exactly are you hiding? If you had nothing to hide, you'd keep the shades up!

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | about 7 years ago | (#19850363)

I have no shades on my bedroom window. The ones that were there when I moved in broke, and I haven't cared enough to put in new ones. The only issue I've had is that the sun wakes up well before I'd like to, but with a north-facing window, even that's not that big of a deal. Besides, I'm a hairy 220 lb. 5'7" man. My potential voyeurs are already too busy looking at goatse.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (4, Interesting)

Pig Hogger (10379) | about 7 years ago | (#19848637)

There is no biological response, yet, to keeping your information private.
Yes there is. Many animals (not just the humans) will hide to defecate (ever had cats at home?). The same thing often goes for mating.

Many monkeys will go berserk if you just stare at them, and staring at a charging feline will very often stop it dead on it's tracks; this is why thai farmers will wear masks on the back of their heads, it will stop tigers from attacking.

Animals need privacy, too, and will make sure they get it.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | about 7 years ago | (#19849007)

Anybody who has lived in an apartment building with cats in it knows that cats'll mate pretty much anywhere and anytime they want to.

As to animals attacking when you stare at them, they're not attacking because they want to be alone, they're reacting to what they perceive is a threat.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

IANAAC (692242) | about 7 years ago | (#19849251)

I'm going out on a limb and say that humans do not have a biological need for privacy, rather it's cultural.

All you need to do is look at how the idea of privacy is communicated among various cultures. Some languages don't even provide a word for privacy.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

cyngus (753668) | about 7 years ago | (#19849715)

You are drawing a misconclusion here. Animal tend to seek seclusion when they defecate because they are vulnerable at this point. Where a predator to spot prey making #2 its a good opportunity to strike. Yeah, if you have to cut and run, you have to, but with the unfortunate consequence that you might literally get fecal matter on yourself. Another potential evolutionary behavior is to find a spot "off the beaten path" to deposit material which, in the long run, will effect your biological health. So, privacy (a human concept) and seeking seclusion are different.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

hypnagogue (700024) | about 7 years ago | (#19849815)

Animal tend to seek seclusion when [...] they are vulnerable
Exactly so. Privacy is a biological imperative, because lack of privacy makes you vulnerable.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

El Torico (732160) | about 7 years ago | (#19849877)

Is there a possibility that the need for privacy is an extension of the vulnerability compensation technique that you pointed out?

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Derosian (943622) | about 7 years ago | (#19849999)

Tiger: Gees, I mean Cmon. Can you give me a little privacy while I'm trying to maul you!

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Thyrteen (1084963) | about 7 years ago | (#19848661)

Perhaps your biological urge has been suppressed by the conditioning of society, much like other "instinctual" urges that we have been trained to put down (anger? "Dominance"?). The question, as well, isn't what you have to hide, it's what they're doing with the information. I don't want my bank account / e-mails / etc becoming just other ways for the "Corporate Government" we have right now to start taking advantage of me. I'd rather know that the world is still operating by some face-to-face respectful standards, than have myself drug in the street and cut open to see if I've bomb.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (4, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#19848679)

If you consider privacy to be a trivial matter then why is the removal of privacy one of the first things done to prisoners, cult members, or hostages to break them down mentally? Forcing someone to strip is a form of this (that is why genitalia is referred to as "privates", right?). By removing privacy you break down the wall between a person's sense of self and those around him. You make them feel completely vulnerable and helpless. It is a form of abuse. Just because you have "nothing to hide" right now doesn't mean you always will or maybe you are just an exhibitionist by nature.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (3, Interesting)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 7 years ago | (#19849267)

If you consider privacy to be a trivial matter then why is the removal of privacy one of the first things done to prisoners, cult members, or hostages to break them down mentally?
Let's not forgot new soldiers in boot camp. Removing their privacy forces compliance and conformance.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849421)

Soldiers are cult members (patriots), prisoners (economic) and hostages (support the troops) all rolled into one.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848811)

If someone is a biological imperative, we would be proactive about defending ourselves to protect our biological functions. If you're cold, you shiver. If you're still cold, you put on clothes. If you don't, you die. If you're thirsty, your mouth gets dry. You drink water. If you don't, you die.
This doesn't do much to explain the booming porn industry.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (3, Insightful)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | about 7 years ago | (#19848893)

The article in this slashdot story [slashdot.org] seems particularly relevant to your position.

While you claim the information is all there in contracts, most contracts are written in ways that only lawyers, or those trained in legal rhetoric can understand (just an observation). So it's not as clear cut as you think and that is the problem. Too many people view the world only through thier own set of blinders and don't/wont'/can't see beyond them. Training computer scientists to consider the impact of technology and how it affects users wether that is in UI desing, privacy and security, stability, what ever, is certainly a benefit. Unlike any other discipline that I can think of, programmers and designers have a huge impact in how technology is used or not.

While we are all used to the file system structure in Unix and Windows system, does it really make the most sense for an average user who hasn't necessarily been trained to think in heirarchies? Probably not. And if you reply with "Well, users should learn to think that way, damnit" that shows you don't understand the nature of the problem.

There is a visceral response most people have when their privacy is invaded, very much akin to fight or flight. Whether that is nature or nuture is immaterial. The result is still there. If you know that your privacy may be invaded, perhaps the shock is less, but it is still there. Do you really think if I provided you with your personal information like your financiual history, sexual history, book buying habits, you would not have a reaction?

Awareness it s good thing.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (4, Insightful)

Control Group (105494) | about 7 years ago | (#19849025)

What do I have to hide

The hundreds of tiny embarassments that everyone is guilty of.

Society to date has depended on much of what one does being private - everyone knows that 90% of men masturbate (and 10% lie about it), but it's not polite to discuss or exhibit, and it's embarassing to be discovered. This is, perhaps, irrational, but it is also the way things are.

Maybe you don't want people knowing that you bought Hairspray on HD-DVD. Maybe you don't want people knowing that you're gay. Maybe you don't want people knowing you had an abortion. Maybe you don't want people knowing your great grandfather owned slaves. Maybe you don't want people knowing you smoke weed. Maybe you don't want people knowing you donate money to the Republican party. Maybe you don't want people knowing you did 3 years' hard time - whether or not you were actually guilty. Maybe you don't want your abusive ex-husband to know where you live.

The other alternative is to make sure you stay both legal and conformant to all social norms. Which, even if possible, isn't the way most people want to live their lives.

Given society as it currently is, those are your choices. Your personal crusade to change the social norms such that nothing legitimate is embarassing any more, though possibly impressive, is unlikely to bear fruit before privacy is eliminated.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849527)

Everything is permissible, anything is possible.

Pervasive monitoring would "out" a lot of human behavior and necessarily change social norms. Restricted, centrally controlled monitoring could only be a tool of oppression, protecting the secrets of the powerful as it uses the secrets of the weak to divide and control society. Here's a great comment on privacy [slashdot.org] from the other day.

No it's not (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19849741)

and missus almost all of privacy except one small piece.
That issue is addressed in:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id =998565 [ssrn.com]

Privacy is more then data, it's having control of that data.

That entire post is built upon a fallacy.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Control Group (105494) | about 7 years ago | (#19849859)

Pervasive monitoring would "out" a lot of human behavior and necessarily change social norms

Agreed.

I do not think, however, it's safe to say that it would change them for the better. One might hope that social norms would change to become more accepting - that is, that all behaviors that are not illegal or unethical would also not be shameful. One might fear, however, that what would really happen is a tyranny of the majority situation regarding such behaviors, moving them from simply shameful to practically illegal. Behaviors engaged in by any minority (by which I mean mathematical minortiy, not ethnic minority) would, potentially, be threatened.

Furries, for example. As far as I can tell, there is nothing unethical, illegal, or immoral about that particular fetish. Nonetheless, in an "everything is public" society, the population of non-furries is so much greater than the population of furries that the furries might just be effectively eliminated.

Obviously, there are plenty of other examples that could be used, but I hope you take my point.

In addition, there is another, more general concern: for all of human history, societies have found some activities to be taboo (I mean this as distinct from illegal). Assuming that some form of natural selection of societies takes place, the fact that this is still true may indicate that there is societal value in holding some behaviors as, while not illegal, worthy of censure.

Alternatively, of course, it could be argued that it is a form of societal natural selection to have a privacy-less society, and having no taboos is the next evolutionary step.

Of course, if it's an evolutionary dead end...well, I would rather not be a member of the group to find that out.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19850057)

I do not think, however, it's safe to say that it would change them for the better. One might hope that social norms would change to become more accepting - that is, that all behaviors that are not illegal or unethical would also not be shameful. One might fear, however, that what would really happen is a tyranny of the majority situation regarding such behaviors, moving them from simply shameful to practically illegal. Behaviors engaged in by any minority (by which I mean mathematical minortiy, not ethnic minority) would, potentially, be threatened.
I agree that minority groups have more to fear from pervasive surveillance, but the world is too big to become homogeneous. Also, it would be impossible to implement perfect surveillance quickly. Cities like New York and London are presumably taking these ideas seriously, and to their credit, proceeding cautiously. Layers of privacy will be stripped away slowly, and someone or something still has to point the camera in whatever direction they want to monitor. It will be a while yet before there is a reveal furries button down at the panopticon.

Besides which, I personally have never had anything against furries. I'm sure that when they are not fucking in their bear suits, they're pretty much like myself in most ways. They eat and sleep, walk around talking to people, do some job or other. They might not have such a hard time in, say, a transparent San Franciscan city-state, right?

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

The One and Only (691315) | about 7 years ago | (#19850079)

Sure, furries might end up being a minority, but the number of people who are in various minorities (although not the same one) would be a cumulative majority, and this may lead to acceptance of minority behaviors--a "I'll defend your right to be a furry if you defend my right to enjoy tentacle hentai" type of thing.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

e-scetic (1003976) | about 7 years ago | (#19849411)

You're looking at this in terms of a narrow range of limited issues, namely sex in the bedroom, credit reporting and identity theft. There's more to it than that.

For instance, if you can't see why privacy applies to you then you can't be among those who have complex political viewpoints, engage in "alternative" political activities, or simply have beliefs or opinions which others might deem questionable and which could be used against you later, or even cause you harm.

Many people from a wide range of groups are used to being cautious and have some expectation of privacy when they meet, engage in certain activities, or simply discuss these things.

There cannot be true democracy without this expectation of privacy, since it leads to people not being able to have or hold beliefs or opinions contrary to the endorsed viewpoints of those in power. Liberty and privacy go hand in hand. If the market or government starts encroaching on it then privacy isn't dead, democracy and freedom is, and privacy is simply suppressed.

And by the way, if you close the curtains to prevent others from peeping, you do have some use for privacy after all.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849491)

> If someone wants to peep on my wife and me in bed, I close the shades.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

unwesen (241906) | about 7 years ago | (#19849899)

Oddly enough, I ranted about the whole thing yesterday here: http://www.unwesen.de/articles/ive_got_nothing_to_ hide [unwesen.de]

I don't think privacy is a biological imperative, but a psychological one, which I would argue is based on biological imperatives. You may disagree, of course.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Derosian (943622) | about 7 years ago | (#19850075)

In the year 2068 not many people noticed when a law was passed preventing you closing your shades, not many people noticed or cared. After all their parents had always told this generation if you have nothing to hide then it doesn't matter. One person noticed though and that was dada21. This is his story.

In all seriousness though, I believe you would probably protest if say you were required to wear a wire all day which sent information to a global database. Or every time your body started getting excited it alerted some federal agent somewhere that you could be getting it on, because the chip you had implanted sends them information about your vitals at all time. Don't worry though, they will be able to track you to your home and prove you are either killing or doing your wife.

I don't mean to attack you, just trying to paint a visual image for you here. If you become uncomfortable when someone is watching you do the dirty with your wife, well then there you go you want privacy.

Re:Biology would be pro-active defense, not reacti (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#19850573)

If someone is a biological imperative, we would be proactive about defending ourselves to protect our biological functions. If you're cold, you shiver. If you're still cold, you put on clothes. If you don't, you die.

If you're thirsty, your mouth gets dry. You drink water. If you don't, you die.
If you're seen in an embarrassing situation, you blush.

Presidential Judical Oversight: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848455)


Not according to the world's most dangerous criminal [whitehouse.org]

Nice job guys!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848467)

We're getting there... http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=SPZI.PK [yahoo.com]

So what's with factories and the military (1, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | about 7 years ago | (#19848495)

not having doors on the toilets?

Not to mention orgies. (not just in factories and the military)

Re:So what's with factories and the military (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19849489)

What?
Not having doors isn't because the user doesn't want them, it's because the military doesn't want you to have privacy for some reason. Probably because the think gays in the military are uncontrollable hump machines.

Sex(I assume you meant sex orgies) are a choice people make. Just because some people decide to share the privacy with may people doesn't mean it's not private. Just that the group you are sharing privacy with is larger. Biological doesn't just mean sex.

Figures (1)

Control Group (105494) | about 7 years ago | (#19848499)

Uppity computer scientist thinks she can teach engineers more about those technology-dielectric things. I'll show her a dielectric - I'll teach her not to catch those technology-capacitor things!

Hear here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848521)

I never understood any of the arguments that said "you have to trade privacy for security", whether you're talking about security meaning phsycal safety or security of data or possessions.

I really wish someone would explain this to me. I really, really don't get it. I don't have to let you know what's in my car's trunk in order for me to lock it, do I? You don't have to know what I plan on carrying in my trunk in order to develop a lock, do you? WHY must I give up my privacy and/or anonymity?

Thanks in advance.

-mcgrew

Re:Hear here! (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#19848835)

Because the people arguing against your privacy think beforehand (that's called prejudice, right?) that anything you have to hide (no matter if you just _want_ to hide it, because it would bring their point even lower) is inherently bad for society (so if I like watching gore movies but I don't want people to know I do I'm a menace).

Isn't language marvelous? Of course, my point is they are fundamentally wrong from the moment they narrow the issue so there's only one option (and not even valid, at that). That won't stop them, though (you can tell a bigot, but you can't tell him much).

Re:Hear here! (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 7 years ago | (#19849503)

Every time I see graffiti and then later see a security camera, I consider the lowly spray paint can and how it just may have a noble place in our culture after all..

Re:Hear here! (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 years ago | (#19849737)

In terms of access it makes perfect sense. One doesn't want just anyone walking into a bank vault. Therefore, only a known set of people are let in and they must identify themselves to do so. Lack of identity privacy.

Same goes for your home. If I showed up and let myself in, you'd probably be ticked. Why? My personal privacy is paramount, right? No, your home privacy trumps my personal privacy and I should either be already known to you (lack of identity privacy) or identify myself so you're satisfied (same).

Biology (2, Funny)

PresidentEnder (849024) | about 7 years ago | (#19848567)

Your darn right it's a biological imperative. I can't get anyone to have sex and continue the species without privacy!

Privacy isn't biological (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | about 7 years ago | (#19848587)

as I'm sure that anyone who has seen a pair of dogs shagging in public will agree.

Re:Privacy isn't biological (1)

value_added (719364) | about 7 years ago | (#19849081)

as I'm sure that anyone who has seen a pair of dogs shagging in public will agree.

I've shagged my share of dogs in public ... but my guess is you've seen that just a bit less often. The ones in public are the ones are who got caught with their proverbial trousers around their ankles.

Dogs would prefer to do it privately. Hell, they don't want to be even smelled by strangers. Despite being pack animals (a live or die proposition in the real world), they'd also prefer to eat, urinate, defecate, give birth, and nurse privately, and typically do. Playing is always social, but who hasn't noticed a dog burying a bone, or hiding toys for later.

I'm sure there's countless examples aside from dogs, but I'm sure everyone has some degree of familiarity or relationship with them that using their species as analogy is as valid as it easily recognisable.

Privacy is important (3, Interesting)

realsilly (186931) | about 7 years ago | (#19848607)

The human being needs space and to be able to have his/her own thoughts, feeling, and actions, be their own.

Why should be give up our right to privacy? It is a Constituational right. But it is also a personal right. Stop for a moment to consider how much you want other people knowing about your bad habits. Opposite side, of that picture, do you really want to know how much lint come from your neighbors...... pockets?

I say no. Privacy is needed for inner peace of mind. This includes the knowlege that you are not being watched 24/7. People are more stressed out stuggling to keep their private lives private rather than enjoying their lives.

Re:Privacy is important (1)

ragged claws (676321) | about 7 years ago | (#19848909)

Why should be give up our right to privacy? It is a Constituational right.
The Right to Privacy must be in the same secret section of the US Constitution (I assume you mean US Constitution?) as the Right to Free Choice and the Right to Party...

Re:Privacy is important (1)

realsilly (186931) | about 7 years ago | (#19849103)

Good point, thanks for the correction.

  Sum times me nub

9th Amendment (2, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 7 years ago | (#19849177)

The Right to Privacy must be in the same secret section of the US Constitution (I assume you mean US Constitution?) as the Right to Free Choice and the Right to Party...

If by "secret section" you mean the 9th Amendment, then yes. Let me refresh your memory:

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

Re:9th Amendment (1)

ragged claws (676321) | about 7 years ago | (#19849451)

If by "secret section" you mean the 9th Amendment, then yes.
Touché! Though I don't think it's correct to say that the Right to Privacy (or the Right to Party for that matter) is a Constitutional right because of the 9th Amendment. When referring to Constitutional rights, we usually only means those explicitly enumerated.

Re:9th Amendment (3, Insightful)

Control Group (105494) | about 7 years ago | (#19849713)

That is, in part, the problem. One of the arguments against including the Bill of Rights was that the enumeration of certain rights would implicitly mean that some rights are more protected than others. The inclusion of the 9th was intended to avoid that problem.

Clearly, it has not succeeded.

Insofar as we wish to abide by the intent of the founders, there should be no distinction made between the rights enumerated by amendments 1-8, and the rights collectively enumerated (not that the phrase actually makes sense, but I hope you take my meaning) in the 9th (and 10th, for that matter).

we'd never reproduce (1, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 7 years ago | (#19848619)

If people were meant to be private (and therefore solitary? I don't know) then we would not have evolved as a gregarious species. We'd still be roaming the plains and beating up other members of the human race whenever we met one - of the same gender as ourselves. We'd certainly never have developed language and probably wouldn't have any higher brain functions either.

OK, I know that's how a lot of people act - hopefully they will never reproduce, but having neighbours and sharing things with them is part of how we developed. Privacy only started when humans started wearing clothes: a great step backwards, ISTM.

Re:we'd never reproduce (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849687)

I don't completely agree with you, but you are right that privacy encourages a kind of hyperindividualism. We keep harmless secrets, perhaps out of fear, which in turn prevents us from learning that others harbor the very same secrets. These are potentially opportunities to create trust.

Re:we'd never reproduce (4, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | about 7 years ago | (#19850117)

That has to be the worst false dichotomy I've seen this week. There's no need to choose between privacy and socialization. Just because I like playing video games with friends and arguing with people on Slashdot doesn't mean I want strangers to watch me masturbate or examine my bank statement.

we'd never reproduce without privacy (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#19850673)

If people were meant to be private (and therefore solitary? I don't know) then we would not have evolved as a gregarious species.
Children behave
That's what they say when we're together
And watch how you play
They don't understand and so we're

Runnin' just as fast as we can
Holdin' on to one another's hand
Tryin' to get away into the night
And then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground
And then you say

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts
is the only sound

Look at the way
We gotta hide what we're doing
'Cause what would they say
If they ever knew
and so we're

Runnin' just as fast as we can
Holdin' on to one another's hand
Tryin' to get away into the night
And then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground
And then you say

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around
I think we're alone now
The beating of our hearts
is the only sound

I call BS (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 7 years ago | (#19848629)

...how you should go about teaching engineers and computer scientists to think about user acceptance and social adoption...
Nonsense. Engineers, computer scientists, hell, tech geeks of any kind build what those in power want them to build. If they don't, we'll find a geek who will. Do you suppose A-bombs, nerve gas, "weaponized" anthrax, etc. came about any other way?

Re:I call BS (1)

Elemenope (905108) | about 7 years ago | (#19848921)

No, I'm pretty sure the scientists and engineers thought long and hard about signing on to the A-bomb project, and without them it is likely that the bomb would not have been developed by the end of WWII if at all. Feynman in his memoirs talks a great deal about this.

The 'if I don't build it, they'll just find somebody who will' idea is only true so long as it doesn't take a significant degree of inventiveness or special skills to complete. If the physicists on the A-bomb project quit, I don't think the US government would have had an easy time coming up with more physicists of the requisite caliber. As such, those scientists' moral resolve and ethical decision making were critical factors as to the question of whether the bomb would be built or not.

Re:I call BS (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 7 years ago | (#19849141)

I can't agree. The Manhatten Project was special in the speed in which it was developed. The fact that it (slightly) advanced science at the same time was incedental. Again, it was the people in power who collected the cream of the crop scientists to build it - quickly. Perhaps I should have used H-bombs or neutron bombs as an example, as they didn't present the level of challenge that the A-bomb did.

My point remains - "educating" geeks to be socially responsible for what they build or invent doesn't help, as it's hardly ever the geeks who decide what is to be built.

Re:I call BS (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19849401)

Wow, do you enjoy limiting yourself in that manner?

"slightly"? No there was a lot of stuff no person had ever done. Hell, building some of the test tools to determine critical mass alone was very advanced for the day.

Why do you think geeks can't be in power? You may go through life thinking "Well, I'll just do what ever the man says and not think for my self." Not me.

Some people believe those things are good to have;which brings up the point "Who the fuck are you to decide what is 'good' or 'bad'?

Now, different people have different morals, and THAT is why they find people to do those things.

I have told people I have worked for no to projects I feel are immoral. Sometimes someone else does it, sometimes it never takes off. Projects that would have impacted almost everybody who buys a house or wants credit.

Finally, why the hell do you thing 'Speed' of a project is separate from a project? Often not being able to meet a window kills a project.

Wow, Zonk is on a roll. (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 7 years ago | (#19848649)

This is a nice selection of stories with the same idea:

If we just control people precisely and carefully in then minutest possible detail, we'll have utopia.

Privacy it a relatively modern concept. A few hundred years ago, it was unheard of.

That's not true (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19849005)

privacy is about the sovereignty of the individual. It has been around for a very long time.
government's took it away. The idea the the need for privacy dictated in law has only been around for a few hundred years.

I also happen to believe that there are different types of privacy, and that privacy is implicit in any relationship.

Meaning, If I choose to share information with a credit card company that's fine, but the data is still private between me and the Credit card company. Saying the credit card company can share your information implies that it's not yours anymore. It also mean information about you is being used and you have no control over it. Which is wrong no matter who is using it.
Our founding father understood this, and made it so the government can not take those things that would be private to the citizens. While allowing people to choose who the bring into there person ring of privacy; Which can include everybody.

Re:That IS true. (1)

Aim Here (765712) | about 7 years ago | (#19850179)

No. The grandparent is right. Privacy is a relatively new phenomenon, though it certainly predates your Founding Fathers. History didn't begin in 1776, or even 1492 you know.

In Western Europe, it came about with the invention of the chimney. Before then, everyone in a large household, from the lords right down to the stablehands all slept together in one big hall, because that was where the fire and the heating was. When chimneys were invented, large dwellings could sustain multiple small fires and small rooms, and privacy suddenly became something that was possible.

Nowadays, technology is making it virtually impossible again, since getting rid of computer databases and camera surveillance (and stopping people using them) would probably be about as difficult as uninventing the wheel.

Re:That IS true. (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 7 years ago | (#19850295)

No, you are wrong. A secret is privacy. Secrets have been held for as long as humans have had society. Do you think when the local warlord made a secret pact to marry his daughter off to the warlord to the east, instead of the warlord to the west, that he wasn't very clear that he was keeping a secret? Whether he called it 'privacy' or not, he was very clear on the idea that letting just anyone know certain things about him would be very dangerous indeed.

Summary (1)

Hythlodaeus (411441) | about 7 years ago | (#19848675)

"If you can't convince adults who've made up their minds, just indoctrinate the young to agree with us from the start."

Re:Summary (1)

srobert (4099) | about 7 years ago | (#19849565)

Your quote sums up nicely exactly why I fear living out my older years in a world run by a generation that was raised to accept as inevitable that their parents, school teachers, the government, etc. could read their diaries, look over their shoulder while they're on the internet, equip their vehicles with tracking devices, listen in on their phone calls, and watch them with webcams every minute of their lives, for their "protection". My generation is teaching the one after it that they should have no reasonable expectation of privacy. We shouldn't be surprised later in life when our rooms in nursing homes are equipped with webcams to watch every move we make.

Bad Logic (1)

fubatsaturn (1127665) | about 7 years ago | (#19848693)

'soup OR salad'
Shouldn't it be: soup XOR salad?

Piracy is a Biological Imperative! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848699)

There, that reads *much* better.

I didn't know (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848711)

think if we are successful in producing a new breed of engineers and computer scientists, society will really benefit


I didn't know that engineers and computer scientist were classified by breed these days. Anyway, I'm glad there is groundbreaking research on bloodlines going on to develop this new breed that they are looking for. I hear they are expecting a breakthrough any day now.

Giving up privacy = giving an advantage to others (3, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 7 years ago | (#19848723)

Do power players show their cards to each other? Why not? Because a poker game is a (somewhat) adversarial situation, in which disclosing information give an advantage to your opponents, which they are likely to exploit.

A large number of human situations involve some degree of negotiation and are to some degree adversarial. Knowledge can be power, and knowledge can be money. You don't need to be a control freak to want to retain some degree of control.

Not that I expect to get the better of a car deal, but I still don't necessarily want the salesman to know how much money I can write a check for today, and he doesn't necessarily want me to know the financial state of the dealership or his sales goal for the month and how many cars he's sold.

Re:Giving up privacy = giving an advantage to othe (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849369)

Giving up privacy means giving up your ability to deceive another. The problem is that secrets are not evenly distibuted - my secrets are piddly little things compared to a governor's secrets. Existing power structures are such that those who have the most reason to value their privacy will also have greater means of preserving it, and those relatively inconsequential secrets that most people harbor will be exploited to control them in various ways.

Imagine the other side of the coin, though - giving up privacy voluntarily (how, when and to whom you choose) in order to create trust. The scope of the public is widening, and it provides a unique opportunity for people to change the ways in which they think about identity and power.

I have some trepidation about the creep of casual surveillance and monitoring - it seems very narrowly conceived, merely a way to further perfect law enforcement, to try and catch EVERY crime. It will be implemented in urban areas and used to police the already oppressed. It could be used to enable the opposite, however - transparent zones, lawless places, governed directly by the collective will of communities.

Privacy Cells (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#19848841)

Every one of my cells' nuclear membranes and cell membranes would scream YES!!!, if they weren't so busy keeping to themselves.

Biological necessity? Maybe so... (1)

maillemaker (924053) | about 7 years ago | (#19848843)

My dogs get uncomfortable when you watch them poopie. Maybe there is something biological about the need for privacy.

Re:Biological necessity? Maybe so... (2, Funny)

corgan517 (1040154) | about 7 years ago | (#19849847)

Screw that, I get uncomfortable watching my dog 'poopie'. I have biological need to not feel like vomiting.

My cats want privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19848887)

I always thought it was amusing that when we clean our family's cat box, the cat decides to take a crap, but won't actually do the deed unless we turn away. (predator/prey response maybe?)
So... do cats want privacy or do they just want to make sure that no potential predators are watching them so they can pounce when they are, ahem, "busy"

Nice soundbite (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 7 years ago | (#19848917)

>> She advocates the idea that privacy is not primarily a political expediency, but rather a biological one. Suggesting that technological design doesn't have to take a 'soup OR salad' approach,

Nice soundbite. Has anyone got a clue if this actually means anything or is it just psuedo-intellectual drivel?

Re:Nice soundbite (1)

pfhlick (900680) | about 7 years ago | (#19849599)

I think what she's saying is that privacy CAN'T be legislated, it has to be BUILT-IN or will not work.

Privacy is a necessity of life (2, Insightful)

CalexAtNoon (859302) | about 7 years ago | (#19849011)

Privacy is all about information control, we forget that one of the main sources of power is control of information.

When someone (person, company or state) knows all about you, it will be a matter of time when that information will be abused, cause although your life is transparent theirs is not.
So Asimmetry of information gives those on top the best negotiating hand of cards, you might be getting all that convenience of service but will bite you back when you least expect.

Some examples:
- You start getting all that yummi mail spam, and direct marketing offers that you didn't ask for (like right before signed up for some service).

- When you feel defensive and start wondering if they are out to get you, your behaviour is seen as a proof of guilt or that you're up to no good (well, if you done nothing wrong what's there to hide, uhh??? a lot!!!).

- When you decide to change jobs, well that would make your current boss a little tiffed if he/she knew (oh, the consequences...).

- And there's the old, i have a women friend and it's purely platonic, and if my wife/girlfriend knows about it she's gonna be so furious that she'll make my life a living hell (wish is quite unfair since you ain't getting "any" from any of them).


So preserve some of your privacy for your own good, it might get in handy one of these days.

Privacy is based in natural rights (5, Insightful)

Zigurd (3528) | about 7 years ago | (#19849033)

Americans tend to mistakenly think in terms of rights granted by their federal constitution.

This is an especially ironic error since the U.S. Constitution was written in terms that make it clear that rights do not come from a constitution. You have rights, period. The U.S. Constitution does not list your rights. It lists the legitimate powers of government.

So, when someone says, "You have no constitutional right to privacy." they are making a fundamental mistake. They are suggesting that your rights are enumerated, when, both implicit in the structure of the U.S. Constitution and explicitly stated in Amendements IX and X: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." and "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Privacy is a natural right. Without it, many other rights become a nullity.

Re:Privacy is based in natural rights (1)

MenTaLguY (5483) | about 7 years ago | (#19849615)

Thank you for pointing this out. Sadly, part of the problem is that (contemporary) Americans generally don't understand the concept of natural rights.

Re:Privacy is based in natural rights (2, Informative)

ragged claws (676321) | about 7 years ago | (#19849819)

Generally when one talks about Constitutional rights one is talking about the rights explicitly protected by the Constitution. It is a semantic argument, not a philosophical one, to say there is no Constitutional right to privacy.

Perhaps instead of saying, "you have no constitutional right to privacy," one should say, "you have no right to privacy explicitly protected by the Constitution."

Re:Privacy is based in natural rights (4, Interesting)

MasterC (70492) | about 7 years ago | (#19849911)

Americans tend to mistakenly think in terms of rights granted by their federal constitution.
I have been a fan of Alexander Hamilton since I learned he opposed a bill of rights. From the Federalist No. 84:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.


I think Hamilton hit the nail on the head. Read the bill of rights and think of how many times those are blatantly, or pushed, or broken on a technicality of interpretation. Imprisoning journalists for their sources while questioning if they are, indeed, a "journalist." In many places you cannot freely assemble a large, peaceful group without a permit. Arguing if an assault weapon ban is legal because individuals aren't a milita. No need for warrants for email, etc. Holding people in guantanamo, abusing them, and not affording them due process because they are "prisoners of war" or whatever the current defense is. Then there's the whole civil rights movements: where does it say the government has the power to rescind the right to vote based on race or gender such that it was *necessary* to amend the constitution to rescind the government's power to do so?

I would like to hear what Hamilton would have to say today with a few centuries proving him right...

It's a learned behavior (1)

Bullfish (858648) | about 7 years ago | (#19849057)

And a necessity in modern society. If you want to give a biological imperative, I think it would be the opposite. We are wired to be communal. Humans are social beings, pack animals as it were... we banded together, lived together, fought together etc so we wouldn't be eaten by the bigger, faster and stronger. In modern society we have to pursue privacy. Desmond Morris in the Human Animal explained it better than I, but one of the things is that is it very hard for one human to ignore another human. We have to work at it. Cities force us to seek anonymity, otherwise we would be overwhelmed acknowledging each other.

That said, one of the aspects of living in a polite society is that we work to respect each other's privacy. That is why, in my opinion, that violations of privacy, especially by people we don't know, is offensive to us.

Biology replaced (1)

athloi (1075845) | about 7 years ago | (#19849167)

...by the industrial revolution, economics, politics and The Media. I'm not sure a biological imperative means anything these days besides a bathroom trip.

Allow me to paraphrase myself (1)

kennylogins (1092227) | about 7 years ago | (#19849221)

Blah blah blah. Correct, it isn't a RATIONAL need. We're programmed this way. And that's why point by point apparently coherent RATIONAL appeals are largely ineffective.
Frame it this way:
Why do we prefer shitters with stalls and walls vs. one in full public view?
Why do we have shutters and shades on our windows?
Is it because we all plan on doing something wrong?
No, it's just human/animal nature. Privacy and personal space.

Rational! (2, Interesting)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | about 7 years ago | (#19849533)

The desire for privacy may be entirely rational.

Humans are, after all, a thinking species - we know how to use information, both for ourselves and against our competitors. By denying information to our competitors we gain an upper hand, whether it be in war and combat, social standing, accessing food and water, and so on. How often, for example, has a social situation felt like a game of poker, with bluffing and deception?

Knowledge is power. By denying information to our competitors we may well improve our own chances for survival and procreation.

FBI knowledge makes you biologically advanced (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 7 years ago | (#19849237)

Just think of all the hot chicks you can hear breaking up with their boyfriends. You can totally catch em on the rebound with your,"Hey I'm just passing through, and my job is an FBI agent." routine.

Privacy (1)

Jaaay (1124197) | about 7 years ago | (#19849351)

is a biological imperative primarily among intellectuals I think. The way most people of this generation upload all their personal things on myspace without a thought says a lot. Contrast that to slashdot where the majority probably have no interest to do this and are more likely to be using tor and disabling cookies and other things that most people couldn't care less about.

The issue of engineering attitude. (2, Interesting)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | about 7 years ago | (#19849423)

Training engineers and computer scientists to consider privacy issues would be a good start. The natural instinct of an engineer is to collect as much information as possible, and to make it as accessible as possible. Mostly this has nothing to with human privacy (I don't think my PCB minds having thermistors all over it...). But it's a fundemental approach to gather as much information as you can, even if you don't know what it's going to be used for.

There have been two main technological obstacles to ubiquitous surveilance. The first is getting the data from the sensor to some central location. Universal wireless networks have taken care of that. The second is the storage and filtering of all that data. That problem's been solved with cheap storage and better computers and software. So, in building other things people want (cell phone systems, computers with enough storage and power to handle video, etc.) we've put all the tools in place of a low cost, universal surveilance system.

Even the last minor hurdle - powering the sensors - is being overcome with "energy harvesting" technology. It's not enough to power video cameras yet, but the market forces will certainly push it in that direction.

The days are over when we could safeguard our privacy by technological limitations (the "who's going to bother looking at what I'm doing" defense). So perhaps it is time for the engineers and the computer scientists to start considering the privacy issues from the beginning, as a technology issue.

We work hard to build devices that don't electrocute or maim us. It's time we started considering social harm as well, and not leave it all to the politicians.

Blurb correction (1)

payola (1127685) | about 7 years ago | (#19849463)

Scott McNealy is actually no longer the CEO of sun; that title now belongs to Jonathan Schwartz. McNealy should be referred to as a former CEO.

Re:Blurb correction (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19849547)

Jack Ass will also work.

minority Phds (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | about 7 years ago | (#19849557)

I think it's cool that we (USA) can have a Comp Sci Phd at one of the most prestigious Comp Sci schools named "Latanya" (whose picture in the article confirms she is black and female).
On the other hand, part of her interview was about racism/sexism she encountered at MIT in the 70s.

unintended consequences (1)

my sig is bigger tha (682562) | about 7 years ago | (#19849685)

i read the article and while i find sweeney believable (and refreshing), there are too many examples of new tech being used directly counter to the intent of its originators, when it suits the aims of the people running things.
how long will it take for identity angel to be used to gather information in exactly the way that she is trying to prevent?

(tin foil hats! getcher tin foil hats right here!)

New? The Existing are pretty good... (1)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | about 7 years ago | (#19849849)

Of all the people I know, it's the computer engineers and software programmers who are the most privacy concerned. I'm not sure what this article is talking about (I didn't RTFA), but in my experience it's the non-technical who don't understand (like politicians, and business people) that don't care and need to be educated.

Look, all the socially conscious engineers in the world won't do you any good if the people signing their pay checks are demanding spyware, massive personal ID databases, and the like.

Linguistic proof against the article (1)

mafemmo (994550) | about 7 years ago | (#19850097)

I know for a fact that in many languages, there is no word for privacy ( for example, Hindi and some other Indian languages) . If indeed privacy was a biological need, I am sure languages would be able to express it adequately. The need for privacy is, at best, a creation of the western society.

great....more work on Friday (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850451)

'I think if we are successful in producing a new breed of engineers and computer scientists, society will really benefit.'

I agree... work just never stops, but if society is at stake, what can you do? Honey, I'm coming home!

hot girls for all of us nerds... (0, Troll)

myspaceCollector (1127719) | about 7 years ago | (#19850519)

I collect the hottest girls of myspace and aggregate them neatly for all of us nerds to conveniently view. Check us out: http://myspacecollector.com/ [myspacecollector.com]

More Privacy = More Work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850669)

Maybe, and hopefully I misunderstood this, but her suggestion for us to get privacy is to work harder as engineers and computer programming...?

Does that even make sense...?! So when president Bush allowed wiretapping, we would've been fine if we programmed it so we couldn't wiretap? As if he wouldn't of made some other law to allow it? Not to mention the countless other privacy concerns hes ruined.
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