We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

The greatest passions, however, require privacy, and the good society would not deserve to be so-called if it lacked ample opportunities for seclusion and solitude. In work and in love, creativity requires time alone, to think and plan. Great, passionate works of art are not usually brought into existence by committee. The deepest friendships and loves also need time away from prying eyes to blossom; time to share intimacies not shared with others; time to build a special microcosm of private meaning within the wider, public world. A society devoid of privacy would be a society with no room for great passion, and hence not a place I would want to live. Warrantless wiretaps and extensive networks of closed-circuit television cameras have contributed to the United States and England being ranked alongside other “endemic surveillance societies” like Russia and China, according to Privacy International. But those who say, in defense of such invasive government actions, that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing to hide, reveal a profound misunderstanding of the importance of privacy. Privacy matters not because of the bad that it hides, but because of the good and the great that it nurtures.

Bradley Doucet

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Laird

    Great quote, especially the last sentence.

    Here in the US, it seems (according to Forbes Magazine, anyway) that our Transportation Safety Administration is working on even more ways to eliminate the last vestiges of our privacy, with naked-body scanners in transportation sites other than airports, at sporting arenas, and even on public streets. Of course, they protest that they have “no plans” to implement such measures, but even if true (highly questionable) that’s only for today; tomorrow will be different. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: no one who works for the TSA has honest intentions. Every one of them should be ostracized from civil society.

  • PeterT

    Great quote.

    There is a difference I think, though, between a surveillance society, where government or other actors are actively seeking to monitor private behaviour, and a transparent society, where technological progress has made privacy impossible, albeit in an incidental manner.

    We value privacy because we are used to it, and because the behaviour that is considered acceptable in society is not the same as the behaviour to which all of us are wont in private. This is not a healthy society, and if transparency makes society less hypocrytical then that is a good thing.

  • nemesis

    “But those who say, in defense of such invasive government actions, that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing to hide….”

    Doesn’t the presence of CCTV presuppose that you are guilty until proven innocent?

  • “Great, passionate works of art are not usually brought into existence by committee.”

    When have they ever been brought into existence by committee – even if by accident?

  • Ian F4

    What is the balance between government (“public”) CCTV and privately-owned in the UK ? Does anyone have any statistics ?

    I’d agree the numbers of CCTV in the UK are alarming, but if most are privately owned then surely there’s as much right to protect your property from crime (or your cat from being dumped in a wheelie bin) as there is privacy.

    If we do have to consider privately owned CCTV, then the figures are only the tip of the iceberg if you also consider almost everyone has a similar device in their mobile phone, how does that do for privacy ?

    I’d consider that in a more libertarian world, lots of places would be privately owned and the owners would be only too happy to place CCTV as an anti-crime device, so there would be more of them, so it is not a true comparison against countries that discourage private property and where CCTV is owned by government agencies.

    I’d be interested to hear an argument, from a private property perspective, against CCTV, if there is one.

  • It’s probably just me, but depending on the context, the mere word ‘committee’ makes want to either kick and scream or run away in terror.

  • Perhaps because it’s a portmanteau of “communism” and “settee”…?

  • No, it’s more like an oblong table, with tall upright chairs, with a big portrait on the end wall…

  • Kim du Toit

    “the mere word ‘committee’ makes me want to either kick and scream or run away in terror.”

    Alisa, your restraint is admirable. The word “committee” makes me want to reach for my AK47.

    And that’s just in its corporate incarnation. My views towards political committees include thoughts of the wheel, branding irons and the strappado.

  • A Liberal in Lakevew

    nemesis, “the presence of CCTV” nearly everywhere is what members of the smart set here in N. America would call being proactive. Of course, by “smart set” I don’t mean to exclude the go-getters who sell to governments the hardware and software needed for governments to be so proactive.

    Now, I have a confession to make. When I worked in business development at a carrier (MCI, MCI WorldCom, WorldCom), I was one of the people who helped governments to obtain pretty good deals on telecoms services such as frame relay, private lines, and, of course, switched voice. In fact, I approved the terms and conditions that sales reps would offer.

    Shame on me.

  • and if transparency makes society less hypocrytical then that is a good thing.

    No. Firstly it is simply incorrect that technology makes privacy impossible. That just ain’t so, it just means you need to behave certain ways and not others if you want some things to remain private.

    Secondly, when certain things are in public view if anything make people more hypocritical.

  • John B

    Yes, we get more hypocritical when someone points a camera at us. Such as groups of people becoming a riot when the camera lights go on.
    Surveillance cameras are awful. A lens points in your direction and you do not know what is on the other side.
    That is power. Ugly, naked, power of the interrogation chamber.
    Are we all nudists, now?

  • That is power. Ugly, naked, power of the interrogation chamber.

    Indeed.

  • PeterT

    I understand your point, but you fail to take the idea far enough. As of yet privacy is still possible, but this may change, and even if it might not (encryption technology) you should consider what the ramifications would be if it did. Imagine that absolutely everything that you did was observable. You have a choice between living a lie, all the time, or living the life you wish to live, with pride. What do you do? If, for example, it became clear that 70% of men watched porn on the internet, it would be pretty hard to argue that porn was somehow an abberation that should be condemned, particulary if it was revealed that that group of men included some of the high and mighty.

  • I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: no one who works for the TSA has honest intentions. Every one of them should be ostracized from civil society.

    That is quite a blanket statement Laird. My wife worked for the TSA in order to help keep ungrateful schmucks safe from harm, not for the thrill of standing around 8 hours a day to go through their travel underwear.

    This is an edifying quote of the day… I hadnt really thought of privacy in terms other than, I treasure mine.

  • ‘ungrateful schmucks’?

  • ” If, for example, it became clear that 70% of men watched porn on the internet, it would be pretty hard to argue that porn was somehow an abberation that should be condemned…”

    Does anyone still argue that?

    If I was an employer and I had to choose between a guy who watched porn and one who had a Facebook page which he visited daily, I know which I would choose :)