Privacy: One Book’s Exploration

I am all over the map of late in this blog.

Blog topics recapitulate the focus of my attention over the day which leap frogs from writing to trees to addiction and now to privacy and books.

Privacy is an important issue. It always has been.

The exploitation of information or intelligence gathering has been with us a very long time.

The tools of data exploitation continue to change as the technologies we “must” have to collect data (digital or otherwise) and communicate change. I am purposefully avoiding the word “improve” here. It is an easy intellectual trap to fall into to assume that everything novel is an improvement in all aspects.

Aside from the sensationalism and gossip aspects of data exploitation, which can direct lazy attentions like a hand on the bridle of a horse, there is something very profound here that deserves deeper thought. Were you really surprised by the Prism/Edward Snowden revelations?

There exist both producers and consumers, predator and prey in this information privacy dance. Each contributes. The social contracts being signed, all too often buried in the 10,000 word “End-user License Agreement” or “Software License Agreement”, are given little attention as we rush to install the latest and greatest App from Company X or sign-up for a service provided for free, when we know that nothing is free. But there are also grey areas or novel areas of data exploitation for which there is no precedent and which give savvy exploiters the keys to the kingdom. It’s a lot of change in a short time. The tools and capabilities are miraculous, life saving, equalizing and just plain fun. But there are downsides and there are costs.

A book that I read many years ago, suggested by a friend, took the privacy issue we wrestle with today to one possible extreme. The complete eradication of privacy in the present, as well as the past.

“The Light of Other Days”, coauthored by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, explores the ramifications to the human condition given a technology that allows anyone to “see” anyone else no matter where or “when” they are. You did something 5 years ago that no one knows about? Think again. Anything and everything you’ve ever done is exploitable.

There are other interesting wrinkles that deepen the plot, but I won’t mention them here.

It was an interesting read and I happened to be thinking about it today.


Purchase via IndieBound

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