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Samizdata quote of the day

“Privacy never an absolute right” in spook, translates as “state shall be able to invade privacy if convenient, without particular reason”.

Caspar Bowden

13 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Or in the language of a constitution of liberty:

    Human Rights Act, Article 8

    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

    2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Then there’s the Zeroth Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads in its entirety:

    “The following apply at the Supreme Court’s discretion:”

  • Yeah, to all the spooks and governments who want to poke around in my stuff: FOAD*.

    In my private emails of late, I’ve been saying the most awful stuff, just to see if I end up on someone’s stupid little enemies list.
    *fuck off and die

  • Very retired

    Let’s face it —privacy in the traditional sense has been completely undone by the seemingly endless proliferation of ways we use computers and their related high tech instruments to accomplish any task, from the trivial to the momentous.

    As a very private person, it pains me to accept the fact that every text, email, and electronic form I place on the web is available for anyone with the skill and resources to access them.

    In fact, I’m afraid the current level of snooping is probably just a primitive antecedent of the kind of data-mining that will become commonplace in the days to come.

    It would be marvelous if some form of privacy protection could be devised that was available to the ordinary person, but I have little hope it can be found.

    What man can construct, man can dismantle.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well said, Very. And not just government snooping. There seems to be a human urge to snoop. (Like all our traits, it’s almost absent in some, altogether a compulsion in others — and there are always such good reasons for snooping, too! — and exists in all degrees in between.)

    It’s almost insufferable, but we do suffer what we cannot change.

    And it’s not just IT. The Post Office, the Pony Express, anybody could have opened anybody’s mail at any time since mail was invented. You only have to be untrustworthy, and it’s a snap. In any police state, privacy of the subjects was never honored by the guys with the guns.

    Which reinforces the importance of trust between people. If the society values trust highly, then privacy is possible, provided the society (by which I mean, as always, the people constituting it) values privacy.

    Our society seems to be less and less interested in retaining privacy. You have the right to snoop, and report, in case the nice parents next door aren’t giving their children good, healthy food — too much meat in proportion to the broccoli. Or aren’t exercising the dog enough. Or have a messy family room. Or allow their kids to play unsupervised in the back yard. Or whatever….

    Privacy, who needs it. It’s only a boor-zhwah thing anyway.

    Ayn Rand said that as a civilization advances so does the availability of privacy.

    How far we have fallen.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Julie, what do you want to do that’s so disgusting that you want privacy to do it? What have you got to hide? You’re guilty of something!
    Why not just go to jail right now, before it comes to court? (Another one bites the dust.)
    Seriously, though, the answer to ‘What have you got to hide?’ should be something like, ‘I don’t want limited police resources being wasted on innocent people like myself, whilst crooks are ignored.’

  • What man can construct, man can dismantle.

    Indeed but I see it from the opposite direction: their panoptic surveillance can be less expensively smashed than it costs to build.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “…except such as is in accordance with the law”

    There’s your weasel words right there. If the law says they can read your stuff and store it indefinitely for future fishing expeditions (which is pretty much what the law does say) then the Human Rights thingy doesn’t apply. End of.

    As Tokien said (speaking through Gimli iirc) “The words of this wizard stand on their heads”.

  • Greg

    It’s fine to be against government abuses of our privacy (and I AM!), but what sources of intel and methods for gathering such are you comfortable with? And to the extent that these are less effective than the current snooping techniques preferred by intelligence agencies, what are the criteria for deciding between permissible levels of government intrusion and increased casualty levels from poor intel?

    Regarding the assertion by some that attacks may not increase because we abandon current and past snooping methods (or they ignore this aspect), I’m guessing that the probability of attacks increasing is about the same as the probability that the governments collecting emails and social media info will abuse it. Actually, I think the latter probability is somewhat smaller than the former, though both are large. But this is speculation on my part.

    I really hope to hear from many Samizdatistas on this as I regard most opinions I read here quite highly, especially as those opinions appear to be based on experience, documented facts, and reason informed by passion.

  • Mr Ed

    And look what has been confirmed today. The UK government’s agencies believe that they may eavesdrop on lawyer/client discussions.

  • Greg, to answer that question, one first has to define the threat one is aiming to combat. What do you mean by intel? Whose information are we seeking, about what?

  • Greg


    I’m reluctant to speculate on military strategy or intelligence specialties in this forum since so many here know so much, but I’ll guess at some answers to your question. The threat? People who want to terrorize the US or its close allies (ok, not a lot of points for such an easy answer!). Not sure I want to extend the US response to every instance of terrorism around the world.

    What’s intel? Information connecting, in an operationally meaningful way, people, places, or events to “the threat”. I know that’s pretty broad; narrowing this scope is the key trade off between having the most comprehensive intel practically available and having less intrusion at the risk of more attacks. The best intel would give us understanding of intentions, of the cultural basis for Muslim animus toward us, such that we might even thwart the bad guys with non-violent means (as well as some pointy sticks)–along the lines of Paul Marks’ assertions here that the West must offer the Islamic world something besides “death to Islamists” to prevail in the long run. OK, maybe this latter isn’t “intel” as much as it is understanding that comes from deep knowledge and careful analysis.

    Whose information is it? Are you asking about ownership of the info or targeting? I’ll assume you’re asking about targeting. Could be anyone in our inter-connected world, regardless of how the information is gathered (from the rumor mill or from the “ether”).

    The main problem I see in all this is that we no longer have trust in our intelligence agencies to “do the right thing”. Many people never had such trust and perhaps many more should not have. We’re all sinners, so I suppose we should not even contemplate setting up things like police agencies, government bureaus, or intelligences services predicated on people “doing the right thing”, but in fact we should assume that enough people will do the wrong thing enough of the time that we must have external checks and oversight in all such endeavors. OK, now I’m veering into Motherhood statements, so I’ll stop!

  • Greg, my question was largely rhetorical, although I probably failed to convey that in the way I put it. But I think you still answered your own original question in your last paragraph there, did you not?