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Stephenson Gives "Heretical" Speech @ Privacy Summit 172

skatedork writes: "From a Washington Post article: 'Speaking last night after the annual presentation of the "Orwell Awards," Stephenson challenged the more than 1,000 people who had gathered from around the world to focus their attention less on installing encryption software against the vague threat of snooping by Big Brother, a reassuringly simple fantasy of a totalitarian state, and more on the very real pattern of injustice brought to bear on people through employers and other institutions. Stephenson said he was less worried these days about broad, theoretical privacy issues than about a recent incident in which a stray bullet crashed through a window at a friend's house and narrowly missed a sleeping child.'"
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Stephenson Gives "Heretical" Speech @ Privacy Summit

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Amen to that my brother.

    It's such a big ego thing to think that you are soooo important that the NSA or CIA or FBI or whateber would want to waste their time on you. Then again many techy geek types have very over-inflated egos so it all makes sense.

    I just love the people who are so anti-establishment and think that all police/governemt people are evil and not to be trusted. The truth is that there are good and bad people everywhere including the NSA/CIA/FBI/etc.

    So give it up posers and let some air out of those egos, just because you can write a for loop or commit a buffer overflow doesn't mean crap. You're just like all the other schmoes stumbling through life.

    Well, except maybe me..I mean.. I really am the shit and I'm pretty darn sure that the NSA has my phone line bugged...those evil commie bastards are always trying to oppress me :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And I left my "cookies" at home...It's Farrellj.

    Just a quicky...the reason that he renamed PGP and Linux was simply so that if he got some of the technical details correct, he wouldn't be jumped on by those who demand all fiction *must* have exact technical correctness. What was more interesting was Neal's and Phil's live discussion of Neal's quoting a friend that said (paraphrasing here) "PGP is like a single 10 mile high picket on a picket fence". The upshot of this is that Neal was saying that good crypto is just *part* of a good security setup, not all of it.

    ACK!I'm missing Whitfield Diffie's luncheon Speech! Gotta trundle!

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You say, Big Brother doesn't give a fuck? I recently sat pondering whether or to fill out a census. It wasn't because I had to put my name, age, address, phone number, number of toilets on my private property, income earned, etc. It was because I'm part Asian.

    Big Brother gives a fuck. During WWII, Big Brother gave a fuck and used so-called confidential data and imprisoned Japanese-Americans in prison camps. Who was hysterical then?

    It took the US government 40 some years before they reached monetary settlement. Destroyed people's lives. That's a knee-jerk response?

    And there are plenty of other knee-jerk responses, I'm sure, that can be given as concrete examples.

    So called /. people don't forget that fundamentals and basics lead to durable solutions. You know perl and html, you're on your way to building a web site. You keep a few fundamental rules around in government and policy, like free speech and privacy, and you have the very tools to use against those instituations that Stephenson believes are worse.

    If we lacked free speech, privacy, and rules of search and seizure, what the hell do you think those institutions and employees would be doing right now? These things level the playing field. To remove, discount, or reduce their importance shifts the balance of the action that common citizens can do to actually protect against ills by institutions and employees.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or do, actually, if you prefer: when apparently fairly senior ranking government officials come out openly with statements like this [zdnet.com] maybe it's not too far-fetched to be thinking a little Orwellian. On the other hand, maybe this is just a tip-off to the general literacy of some of our officials, elected or otherwise. It's hard to believe that anyone who had actually read the book would be making these kinds of off-the-wall statements.
  • It's hard to tell from this article exactly what Stephenson said in this speech, in particular the bullet-going-through-window-almost-hitting-child quote seems taken out of context. I'm sure Stephenson supports the idea of cryptography, or he wouldn't have written a book like Cryptonomicon. What I think he may have been trying to say, then, is that crypto/privacy people need to change their focus first from the largely mythical (in the US anyway) jackbooted government thugs and spooks who listen to your every word and IP packet or maybe break in, make an exact copy of your hard disk and leave without a trace.

    The said fact of the matter is probably that many hackers don't actually have that much to hide except maybe for their involvemnt in developing cryptographic software :)

    I think Stephenson is trying to challenge the crypto "orthodoxy" that pervasive end-to-end encryption can only be a good thing. He makes it abundantly clear in Cryptonomicon that many of the initial customers for Epiphyte's Crypt are rather shady characters. This is a very interesting point, since we now have to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. Cryptography does make it much harder for people's rights to be violated by whoever might be listening it - this includes both "good guys" like the FBI and "bad guys" like criminals intent on credit card fraud. It does make it easier for criminals to communicate without a trace, but I have two rebuttals to that: first, they could be sending cleartext email right now and no one would probably notice; second the constitution was written to protect us from bad laws. This means that if the only way they can possibly prove that some law was broken is by rampantly invading someone's privacy, it is probably a very bad law to begin with. For example, the Methamphetimine Anti-Proliferation Act going through congress right now seeks to ride roughshod over the first amendment by outlawing pretty much any speech related to effects, usage, or production of illegal drugs and paraphenalia. This is a very bad law, one which the constitution was designed to protect us from, and by protecting our right to free speech through encryption we are really promoting our first amendment rights.

    Okay, I've strayed a bit from the topic, but I will admit that we probably don't need 128-bit encryption for dog grooming forums and whatnot. To that end the goal of crypto nuts is clearly to call less attention to themselves by making crypto the norm rather than a notable exception (imagine filtering email for "PGP" and then watching the names that come up for shady behavior - they must have something to hide!) Of course, the idea of privacy isn't really to prevent anyone from knowing things about you - it's to let exert some control over exactly what certain people know about you. I see nothing wrong with that, because we can do this in our daily lives by only telling certain things to certain people, lowering our voices, going somewhere else to talk - why should the internet be any different, our thoughts be an open book to anyone with a packet sniffer?

  • From a pedantic POV he is correct. It is the individuals responsibility to protect himself and his family within their abode, NOT the governments. Fortunately here in Texas it is legal to use deadly force to protect our personal property in addition to our lives.

    rodent...
  • Yes, however, corporations and government don't have opposing views here. The government gains more control over its citizens by having corps do its dirty work (that would normally be unconstitutional / illegal for a government to do). The corporations get to be left alone and pursue higher profits.

    While during the Renaissance you had the church and the intellectualists very clearly in opposition. It was easy to separate them and maintain the balance of power and freedoms. Corporations and governments kinda like each other. Who's going to be separating them?

  • To paraphrase one of America's founding fathers (I think it was Ben Franklin), "People who willingly trade freedom for security deserve neither."

    Also, you have to remember that in this country, the police have abolsolutely no mandate to protect you, the lawful citizen. The courts have upheld this many a time. The police exist to enforce law an order (see the Enforcers from Snowcrash) and not to protect your life, liberty , or happiness. Thats YOUR job.

  • wow, your sig is the quote i was trying to remember in a response to an earlier quote. Too bad I paraphrased it and butchered it all to hell.
  • What happen if you restrict your math to stable democracies? (stable = the majority of the voters have lived all their life in a democracy). Is the result still as clear?
  • We need to address issues of crime etc first before we can give Big Bro the middle finger. That's what stephenson meant..i think..

    But this leads directly to a state where Big Brother exists...

    1. Crime is a threat to the welfare of a population.

    2. If "concerns about crime" trump privacy concerns, violations of privacy in order to stop crime are appropriate.

    3. Since the state acts in a manner to abate crime, destabilizing the state is attack against crime abatement, and indirectly, an attack on the welfare of a population.

    4. Therefore, acting in a manner that subverts the actions of the state in pursuit of its lawful crime abatement strategy should be regarded as a crime.

    5.Surveilence in order to prevent subversion is a lawful action on the part of the state.

    6. Big Brother.

    Luckily, "crime abatement" is not the basis of our present society. That's why we have the Bill of Rights, and specifically the right to be secure in our homes against unlawful searches and seizures, the right not to be forced to quarter troops in our homes (Imagine the crime abatement opportunities if everybody had cops as "roommates."), even the right to bear arms (in the context of a well organized militia).

  • Who'da thunk it?

    __
    (oO)
    /||\
  • "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Ben Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania.

    Thank you, drive through!

  • but imagine a world in which stray gunfire wasn't
    as abundant.. or crime wasn't so high. There wouldn't be a need for Big Brother to spy on you
    People fail to realize.. or atleast deny this.

    Big brother spying on us is not neccesarily bad.. if you don't do anything wrong then u have nothing to hide, if u do something wrong.. then u obviously should not be doing it. Big brother is spying on me, but Big brother is also spying on Joe Terrorist.. just as you say the threat of big brother is.. The terroristic threat is also just as real. Just because you don't hear about it in
    America as often doesn't mean that the govt is not
    stopping some guy from making a bomb... sure sometimes the govt does screw up and get the wrong guy.. we need to make the process better. but to ask Big brother to go away, or to think of it as the most evil thing since Satan himself.. is foolish.

    Big Brother is watching us, but he has also saved us countless times and we don't know about it. If Big Brother was to talk about every thing they stopped we'd never hear the end of it.

    If you want privacy tools then sure.. use them. If there is a certain email that you don't want anyone else to be able to read go ahead encrypt it with 4096 bit encryption.. but how do u secure it once it reaches the recipient and he opens it up and leaves it open and goes for a cup of coffee ?
    or saves the decrypted copy on his computer ?
    Remember that thing that can read signals from your monitor ? Big Brother can use those..

    Also do you really think that you are the only person the govt is governing ? there well over 200 million people in the USA alone. Now if u lead a pretty normal life and don't associate yourself with known terrorists/criminals.. the govt may have info on you.. but it will never look for it.. no reason to. I'm all for privacy and all and I too would like to be able to keep my secrets well secrets.. but as long as their are terrorists and screw balls who can't obey the law.. then I see the need for big brother to look out. It's a fact of life.. i can't change it. I'd rather let big brother be able to check my private email if it also enables them to check the private email of Joe Terrorist who is planning to hijack the plane that i'm about to take, or bomb my office building.. (unless of course he does it when i'm not in the office.. then by all means.. blow it up :)).

    We need to address issues of crime etc first before we can give Big Bro the middle finger.

    Thats what stephenson meant..i think..

  • Well then, ban firearms. IMHO it's a step that America should take since we are the country with the highest murder rate in the Western world, which is related to our Constitional "rights" to own guns and kill people.

    Moderators are asleep at the switch. This should be marked as funny. I am not a member of the NRA, but "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns". If someone is planning to commit a crime (hold up a bank, rob a store, murder someone), are they really going to say "Well, gun's are illegal, and I could get in more trouble, so I'll go hold up this liquor store with a sock filled with pennies" Give me a break! Any additional sentance for posessing the guns would be incidental to that for assult, armed robbery, etc. Look how well outlawing drugs has reduced access to them!!!

  • Where in my post did you conclude that I have a problem with guns? You seem to be going off half-cocked (bad pun I know). I was pointint out how stupid it would be to try and make guns illegal.
  • Strangely enough, many other countries seem to have developed fairly reasonable compromises on this issue. I don't recall this being front-page news in my time in Canada or the UK. The Germans, Japanese and French have all pretty much figured out systems they're happy with. Why is it so hard for the U.S. to accept that in some cases, collective freedom (ie, things like physical safety, medical care and clean air) can be more important than individual freedom (ie, ownership of handguns, low taxes, unrestricted consumption)? That this balance must be struck in all societies? That restriction of some individual freedoms is necessary, not because Big Brother wants to make you unhappy, but because we the people desire not to have our children shot by that handgun you so desparately insist on keeping and bearing?

    -Graham
  • >Still feeling comfortable?

    Yes. You're not the government, and I've got my own cameras pointed at you too.

    You won't have a camera pointed at my backyard because that would require trespassing. You can look at my front yard, and I can look at yours. When the police illegally shoot someone in front of our houses, one of our cameras will pick it up, and we'll submit the evidence.
  • No, I'm not joking. I want the cameras to come. Why? A better society, and a better government.

    OK, now let me explain myself! :-)

    We live in a free country (if you live in the U.S. or various other nations in the world). That means that the *people* will own the cameras. In 1984, only the government owned the cameras. In the U.S. every private person can put a camera on the outside of their house and film the street all day.

    Who are those who get into trouble with cameras? The ordinary people? Nope. Remember the LAPD beating up Rodney King? Remember the Clinton aide caught fooling around with the prostitute? On a related subject, remember Nixon?

    It's the politicians that have the most to fear from the citizens owning the cameras.

    I will be buying a house this summer, and as part of the upgrades I will be doing, there will be a small camera mounted to the outside of the house, filming the street 24 hours a day. When the police decide they need to beat up an innocent man, they will do it in front of *somebody's* house. It might be mine, and I'll have the footage needed to send corrupt government representatives to jail.

  • The difference -- as is obvious to anyone over the age of nineteen -- is that you chose your employer.

    Well... If you really want to believe that everybody has a chocie ( a realistic one.. ) go hop that pink clould.

    Yes I do have a choice and you probably have some to. Must guys on /. does. But think about the uneducated 40 something woman who has 5 kids to support and maybe, just maybe, she doesn't really have that much of a choice.

    Atleast think about it.

  • I know about 30 public speakers that had that same friend that the bullet barely missed the child! Isn't it amazing how people lie to make their point? and isn't it amazing how that lie will impress 60% of the sheep in the audience but make the liars credability drop to nothing for the 40% that heard that same "story" used by many other speakers for "effect".

    Whoever this dude was (I dont know or care to know) his low credability has now sunk to absolute 0... just above that of President Clinton, and the entire Senate/House.

    How about getting your point across without lies,embellishments and SHOCK treatments..
  • LOL! You get shot..? yeah, right. I hope you were joking there (or maybe you live in Nazi germany?)
  • I don't care if your kid gets shot in your own home. Thats your responsiblity, not anyone elses...if you dont take the time to make sure your house is secure why should anyone else?

    People who say stuff like that don't even deserve to be called human. Get some mental help pal.

  • This world can be an awful place. Society seems to be in tatters. Change is needed, many agree on this, but change comes slowly. We build programs one function, or one object at a time. We break our programming problems into to small chunks and attack a little bit at a time. Eventually, the problem is solved. When I change the strings on my guitar, I first remove each of them one at a time, put each on one at a time and finally tune them one at a time. Small steps.

    Remember those people you mentioned, the really decent people. Join their ranks. Start off by changing the bad parts of yourself. You are a small part of the whole, but you will need to be a part of the change if is ever to be complete. Then when you see the people on the road being rude and causing problems, well, pray for them, or hope for them. Doesn't matter how, or to what god or no god -- I'm not preaching religion here. I'm also not singling you out; this is for everyone. This is also the only way I've found that I can deal with the hate and pain in the world. Whether it is possible to fix or not, I've got to try to make the world better, even if it is just spreading a little love in the area I live. The world would be a better place if we all did this, and somebody has to be an early adopter.

    Jeff

  • so the underworld is deprived of their astronomical profits


    That's an angle I hadn't thought of before. If you believe the numbers the War on Drugs is producing, the underworld is making quite a pretty penny on drugs. The question then becomes do they have another source of income? I would say not. Nothing that simple and lucrative.


    If that souce of income was deprived the underbelly of the world, what would be the result of that? I, personally, wonder if it would severly curtail large-scale crime, simple from the lack of funds?


    Of course, I'm sure some heads will roll at the pharmacutical companies as soon as they start making these things, as dealers don't like having their turf invaded...

  • I'd really like one of those free farms.

    Yeah, me too. But what seems to always get lost in a discussion of Freedom, is that it's not 'free' (as in Beer). Freedom is not about having what you want, it's about choice of what you have. People who have no freedom are not those that are monitored 24x7. It's those who have no choice about their situation.

    Freedom is about being able to CHANGE your situation. Maybe that the only available choice is for the worse, but if it is out of the control of the oppressor, then it is to freedom. The US was settled by people who understood this. They left a more stable, sophisticated culture and CHOSE to face unknown hardship for the freedom from domination and control by a Monarch.

    It's actually very interesting. How repressive England must have been, if the ones who 'escaped' in search of Freedom were Puritans. :)

    We can all quit out jobs, and do something else. Is that 'something else' something we want? Well, the acceptability of our alternatives pretty much sets how much we are willing to put up with.

    I am free to quit my job, but the resulting hassle of finding another, makes me willing to put up with having my online activities and phone calls logged. I accept that I am using company equipment, and I accept their monitoring.

    But waking up on a farm, walking across the house, and telecommuting to a virtual office sounds nice.
  • Totalitarian states hardly need to be able to read people's e-mails in order to kill them. There really is not much that we can do about them -- on the other hand, we can do something about the budding BigBrotherly tendencies in the occidental world. Sure, any would-be Big Brothers don't really care about reading my e-mail; however, establishing a new set of social mores -- mores that emphasize freedom and privacy -- will make such surveilance harder to enact on anyone, not just people like me. it's not as good as preventing totalitarian mass murder or even saving sleeping children from stray bullets, but it most certainly is still important.

    --

  • But what seems to always get lost in a discussion of Freedom, is that it's not 'free' (as in Beer). Freedom is not about having what you want, it's about choice of what you have. People who have no freedom are not those that are monitored 24x7. It's those who have no choice about their situation.

    I think that I understand the free beer/ free speech distinction. I'm just questioning whether or not it's always true. You talk about freedom to chose an unpleasant option. With that logic you could say that under a Stalinist system people were free to comply with the system or free to become dissenters and get locked up in mental homes or gulags. In that trivial sense, yes, you always have a choice. I'm free to go and die on the street. The point is that given that we have a system with rules that say that there is an accumulation of wealth at the top, the freedoms/choices that I have are to work a job in an urban environment or to not work. I am not realistically getting a farm any time soon. That freedom/choice does not exist here.

    Freedom is about being able to CHANGE your situation. Maybe that the only available choice is for the worse, but if it is out of the control of the oppressor, then it is to freedom.

    I'm not totally sure how to parse that sentence. On the one hand it could mean, if you get out from under the control of the oppressor then you are free - I agree with that. On the other hand it could mean, because you have the choice of doing something you don't really want to do for the oppressor or not doing that thing and starvin you are free - I don't agree with that. That is accepting the rules and choices that the oppressor makes for you. Deny that those are the only choices are what starts revolutions.

    Damn, I thought he was giving away free/Free farms!

  • The fact that this surveillance exists and has for a long time ws brought home to many in Britain and Ireland during the IRA's c.1994 bombing campaign that target the financial districts of London. In the wake of the largest of these bombings it turned out that the police had lots of videotape of men that they suspected were the bombers. They got this from ordinary store surveillance cameras that are installed for the purpose of minimizing shop-lifting. Apparently there were so many of these cameras that they were able to identify a large number of people. There were several hundred of people checked and eliminated from their enquiries. This is the amount of surveillance that exists without a concerted, co-ordinated effort being made. Disturbed? I sure am. I'm not sure that Stephenson had thought very deeply about it.
  • [...] the abuses of which we suspect governments could just as well be done by companies. Historically, where government has found itself constrained by law or public pressure, it has often enough found ways to impose its will through the corporate sector.

    And also the distinction between governments and corporations while real is blurred. Because of the rules governing campaign finance in this country a succesful politician has to be acceptable to the corporations. It's true that s/he is also "hampered" by electoral accountability, but to a large extent government seems to exist to do the bidding of large corporations. This is facilitated by an attitude of public complicity which sees no other way. An illustration of this mirror relationship related to the UFC in Nicaragua example that you use is the current use of the military by oil companies in Nigeria. Here we have the government doing the bidding of a company.

    We should champion democracy against its enemies in whatever form they come, undemocratic government of (oxymoron) undemocratic companies.

    I think that you are correct when you suggest that Stephenson is painting a picture of a future society run by corporations. I think that's what a lot of "cyberpunk" literature is about. I have an unpleasant feeling though that many readers picture themselves solely as the lucky, plucky protagonist of these depictions of future society - a hero in an exciting time struggling against evil. They don't imagine what would happen if the hero had a bit of bad luck, or what the probability is that someone would succeed in those conditions. This is only human and to some extent it is necessary to make the story work. However it also serves to dispel anxiety and I fear that in many cases the reader/MSCE puts down the book and turns back to the BSOD feeling purged of anxiety.

  • I'll admit part of your propositions. But you are not addressing the point as to whether Cubans would suffer more if Castro and the revolution had not triumphed. Most likely they would be in a state of slavery similar to that experienced by the vast majority of the Third World. They'd be working and dying to produce cheap produce to keep the slaves of this country happy. In other words they'd be in the same situation most Cubans were in before they revolted and sent the mafia back to the U.S.
  • The corporate rules DO NOT impinge on anyone's freedom, BTW. We're all free to quit and take up farming, or any other profession.

    Cool! I've been wanting a farm for years! Somewhere with high hills and high trees, the smell of resin and the sound of cattle blowing in on the cool morning wind over the long green pasture. Unfortunately on my salary that's not really an option. So, I'd really like one of those free farms. Where do I get it?

  • Check out the statistics for:
    • 1. Literacy levels
    • 2. Epidemic disease
    • 3. Dental care

    • then you can say No! if you can show me by these objective measures that people are better off in Colombia or Nicaragua. It is undeniable that the social aspects of the Castro government have brought these things to a higher level than anywhere else in Latin America. That's what I'm talking about and you should really make an honest effort to see if I'm telling the truth on this. As for why there are people leaving, well, apparently life is very hard for people there. There is an absence of consumer goods obtained through international trade because of the US embargo. Some people want those things. Also a lot of people have relatives in the US that they want to see. Also there are people that will always want to take the risk to try what life is like somewhere else - probably the same sort of people that in the US are hoping that things change here.
  • Yeah, I've heard a lot of creepy neighbourhood watch stories. I hate the idea of casual surveillance being easier - it should be something that people are afraid of. Part of the great thing about the net to date has been the anonymity but as this is something that big business and government doesn't want it's under attack. I wonder was Stephenson trying to be provocative? I agree with his dystopian perspective on large corporations and their being a threat as much if not more than government, but I really don't like the idea that he reportedly expressed.
  • I don't think that he's saying that stray bullets are less deadly than oppressive nations. He's saying that stray bullets are more deadly than secure email.
  • You are intentionally confusing the context, comparing what a benign corporation can do legally with what dictatorial government can get away with.

    You didn't understand me. When I said a government (and I do not mean just the executive branch, I mean the complete "official" power structure) can execute you, I meant that a government can pass laws the penalty for breaking which is death, can prosecute you for breaking these laws, and can execute you. This is all perfectly legal and happens in all democratic countries (with the exception of those without the death penalty).

    It's no difficult feat to scan serial numbers in a counting machine

    Nope. But then you need such machines at all places which sell anything, plus a big-ass central database.

    Perhaps I was hasty in saying that tracing of cash is technologically infeasible. It can be done (although a simpler solution would be to abolish cash at all and force everybody to use money cards/chips). I would still argue that this is infeasible politically and culturally.

    Kaa
  • but imagine a world in which stray gunfire wasn't as abundant.. or crime wasn't so high. There wouldn't be a need for Big Brother to spy on you

    You, my friend, are amazingly naive.

    The Soviet Union had little crime in its Soviet days. Did this, perhaps, lead to KGB disbanding itself? The same is true for Nazi Germany -- in general, in totalitarian countries crime tends to be low for obvious reasons.

    Why, do you think, people like to work for the government? Some do it because it's just a job, some do it because it's public service (and they are usually just-out-of-college kind), and many do it because it offers them an opportunity to exercise power, to feel powerful and important. Government always wants more power, regardless of crime levels or whatnot.

    if you don't do anything wrong then u have nothing to hide

    This has been rebutted so many times... I take it, then, that you would agree to wear a bracelet that would transmit to the police your location at all times, and a video camera, say, on a collar around your neck. After all, you have nothing to hide and consider how much the crime will be reduced if every member of the society has to wear these!

    Big Brother is watching us, but he has also saved us countless times

    A government is useful to have around, no question about it. However the amount of power that the government is allowed to have must be carefully controlled.

    And as to saving us countless times, let me remind you that a Big Brother goverment can be very nasty to its citizens. The Soviet Union, in Stalin's time, killed ~10 million people by an artificially induced famine in the Ukraine and killed another 10 million in the labor camps. Plus out of 20 million Soviet casualties in WWII many could have been avoided.

    I can go on and on, but really, the positions in this post are not rationally defensible.

    Kaa
  • I will be buying a house this summer, and as part of the upgrades I will be doing, there will be a small camera mounted to the outside of the house, filming the street 24 hours a day.

    No, I'm not joking. I want the cameras to come.

    OK, since you want the cameras to come, you can have no objections to me installing a camera across the street from your house and pointing at your house. And another one pointing at your backyard. Maybe the cameras will have telephoto lens. Certainly they'll have low-light gear.

    Please note that my cameras will be on public property (a street) and will be filming only what's visible from public property.

    Still feeling comfortable?

    Kaa
  • But then, in order to protect innocent sleeping children from stray bullets, Big Brother will require manditory housing searches to find any illegal guns (which at that time would be all of them).

    Good, about fucking time.
  • That was the whole reason Kaa mentioned the ATM machine. If you only get your cash from ATM machines, it'd be pretty easy for banks to collude with retailers to find out all about you.

    And even if you got your money somewhere else, they can still trace the money to the last time it was scanned, and do some inferring. Then they can find out who you associate with.
  • Please . . .

    After all, he wrote the damned story . . . .

    himi

    --
  • Where was Geek-With-Gun ESR when Stephenson brought up the stray-bullet incident?
  • Was anyone at this conference? I would have been interested to see how Phil Zimmerman reacted to having his software renamed and included in Cryptonomicon. ^_^

    Seriously, it's good to hear something like this. It's just another way to drive home the point that an author is not his characters.
  • There isn't really a bright line between employers and government nowadays in a lot of places.
    1. Most employers are corporations. We tend to forget that corporations are not natural persons; they are creations of government. The reason they were created is that pure voluntary associations of natural persons, without the rather unnatural liability protection that defines the corporate form, would not end up being like corporations, nor acting like corporations. We should all be careful of them, including libertarians... there is no purely libertarian argument for corporations in their present form to exist at all. As somebody else pointed out, they concentrate power.

      Worse, corporations are amoral, and they have to be amoral. If you are a moral person managing a corporation, you have a duty to your shareholders to maximize profits. As part of the deal you struck when you took your job, you have to suppress your own values in all but the most extreme situations. Basically, you've agreed to do whatever the law will allow, however disgusting, to make a buck. Notice that that wouldn't necessarily be the case with other forms one could imagine for large enterprises.

      Corporations were created to concentrate power and insulate people from consequences. They should be watched closely, and it's not clear that they should have the same unrestricted property rights as real people have, and that includes the right to monitor all use of their property.

    2. Less radical, but still real: a huge amount of the employer monitoring that goes on is encouraged or required by government. Drug testing, for example, in some industries.

      US harassment laws, as another example, are deliberately designed to make employers do things, or to encourage them to do things, that would obviously be unconstitutional if the government tried to do them itself. I'd guess those laws are responsible for 80 percent of the e-mail and Web monitoring in the US.

      This is related to the point above. Among other things, the laws skirt the constitution by deliberately playing off of management's duty to make a profit above all else. Employers are encouraged to go way beyond the actual requirements of the law, because it's cheaper than considering each case for real. Here, the government has created a pliable organization, then pushed it to do its "Big Brother" work for it.

    3. Another area of interest is intellectual property. IP laws are increasingly structured to let companies, both in their capacities as sellers, and in their capacities as employers, get away with murder. Non-compete agreements are perhaps defensible, but remember that they do amount to indentured servitude.

      The DMCA is not defensible. Why do we have the DMCA? Because a lot of "good corporate citizens" asked for it. Why are they "good corporate citizens"? Because they cooperate with the government, and with individual politicians, in lots of ways, ranging from campaign contributions to "free" assistance with government programs to just plain not raising a stink at Orwellian stuff like that mentioned above.

    4. Hell, even income tax withholding is an example of employers being recruited as agents of the government.

    To sum up, in most of the rich industrialized countries, corporations, which are themselves artificial creations of the government, are coerced or encouraged to act as agents of the government (often by invading privacy). In return, those corporations are (partially) immunized from the consequences, and also get lots of "free rides" and chances to stomp on the rights of others. Where's the line?

  • It's funny that few employers make the argument that they can search your purse because you are using their desk to rest it on, or do a cavity search because your ass is on their chair. Selling one's time does not mean selling one's right to privacy, nor does the corporation's ownership of computer equipment permit surveillance that would be illegal via phone or mail.

    The unfettered powers that corporations have over individual lives cannot be remedied by the excuse that you can simply work somewhere else. There's too much power consolidated in too few corporations for this to be effective, and furthermore, that argument justifies such absurdities as having rationed bathroom breaks for your desk job.

    That being said, I did move, because I didn't like my employer's attitudes about a lot of things; only my geek skills can afford me this luxury. People without geek skills deserve privacy, too.

    And if you have a problem with how sexual harrassment is construed in the courts (I agree that the courts are in some ways forcing corporations to play Big Nanny), maybe it's time for you to stop running from problems and face them; serve for jury duty when you are called.

  • That would be true if the free market was a good thing. It's not. Why should I put the freedom of a corporation above my own freedom. Did you hear the man? His g/f cannot do things like get a job. Talk about a lack of freedom. Corporate freedom should be restricted if it infringes on my freedom. The "Free Market" should be read as the "Free if you are rich market." This case is outrageous - you can keep your "free" market. I'd rather live in a place where *I* can be free.

  • x.com, baby.

    free checking. no credit check. they even pay 4% interest on accounts over $1000.

    remember my email when you sign up, ok?

    Steven V.
    svallarian@hotmail.com
  • I don't think that the government is the large totalitarian threat nowdays.

    It's large corporations.

    Ah, but who empowers those corporations? Who charters them, give them special tax status, grants them recognition as legal persons, lets them own property, and creates and defends their "intellectual property" rights? It's the government.
  • You're avoiding the issue. If that woman cannot afford to be picky about jobs, because her choices are very limited or non-existent, what happens to her right to privacy?

  • If they won't agree to it then they must not want what you have bad enough

    Exactly. For low skilled jobs, employers view people as interchangeable. So what, exactly, are low-skilled employee's supposed to do? Answer me that! We can't all work in high-tech, you know. Some people have to do menial work. And why should they lose the privacy rights just because they lack economic bargaining power?

  • The only person responsible for ones actions is yourself.

    I'm guessing you're not a lawyer...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    At long last someone has come out and said what is obviusly true, given less paranoia and a more rational sense of people's places in today's society. Big Brother is not watching you, in fact Big Brother does not give a flying fuck about you.

    After all, the sort of people here on /. who are constantly worried about their privacy are what - they're either programmers who work for companies of no importance working on projects with even less importance, or they're sys admins who sit around all day at work reading /. and little else. Do you really think that the NSA or whatever is actually interested in what you do? Of course not, they want to get to the people who actually do real things, not the latest kernel patch to an OS of no interest to them.

    Finally, someone with some clout and experience has dared to come out and say this, but I'm sure the hysterical /. privacy crowd will post their knee-jerk responses claiming otherwise. Grow up, people. You're just not worth the time it would take them to monitor you.

  • you haven't seen the real deal until you go through communist propaganda given out in territory that they control.

    I am Russian and I lived there until 1993, so I am in the right position to say that anti-American propaganda of the Communist era pales compared to anti-Communism in US -- both then and now. I have no idea how bad was/is Romania, but I've heard that it had one of the dumbest governments in the world, Communist or otherwise.

  • The Nazis were evil from the start.
    The Communists were evil from the start.

    Great example of the consequences of decades of anti-commnist propaganda in US, thrown at simple-minded american people. Dehumanize the enemies, and all crimes of your government will look justified.

  • You see the problem. The problem with most governments is that they become far too idealistic to hold to their ideals, if that makes any sense.

    It's like the U.S. The FBI seems to be more and more a lunatic fringe in and of itself. The goal is admirable: to prevent all crime. But first, that's not their job (the job is to catch criminals, not prevent crime), and second it's impossible. The only sure-fire way a governing body can stop crime is to have total control over the population, and the only people over which one can have total control are slaves. The cure is far, far worse than the disease.

    That's always been the problem. There are very few dictators who rule over their countries for the sake of evil, at least as first. But as they stay in power, one of two things happen: either they become so corrupt that they go bad, or they become such zealots that in the cause of their ideals, they throw those ideals away. Look at, for example, the Soviet Union. The Bolshevik Revolution had good intentions; they truly believed in Marx's ideals. And their first leader tried to hold to them. Then Stalin came along, and in the cause of freeing the proletariat he enslaved them (if you look at the numbers, he actually killed more of his own people than Hitler did). In Cuba, Castro overthrew the previous government in an attempt to end his people's suffering. But decades later his people still suffer, as much as if not more than ever before, and the ideals to which he clung as a revolutionary have been cast away; he clings to his power now.

    Even the Framers of the Constitution had extremely high ideals. Second to none, really, and before you go spouting off about the ideals of some other nation, note that I said "second to none"; this does allow for ties. But look at the mess were's in now; somewhere in the nation, almost every amendment to the Constitution is violated on a daily basis. The dreams of the Framers are still dreams; we may be closer to them than many, but we still have so far to go, and we've only lost ground over the decades.

    The US was founded on the idea of government by the people, of the peole, and for the people. To some extent we've held to this. But the people forgot to watch their government, and so it's been able to sneak around behind our backs and do things the people wouldn't want (sometimes truly horrid things). Who watches the watchmen? We're supposed to. But we didn't, and now they've set up systems in which we can't watch them now (NSA, anyone?). This has to change somehow. Or the downward slide of the government can only become worse over time. We still have some freedom left; law enforcement would distract us from guarding that, as it hinders the zealots who think their job is to prevent crime rather than enforce the law, but we can't allow this.
  • Some 97% of all public space in London (the city with the most surveillance cameras in the world) is covered by video cameras.

    The cameras can read number plates automatically. They were also experimenting with software that could automatically identify faces from a list (of known criminals/terrorist suspects/fugitives/missing persons presumably) a while ago. Not sure how far that has gotten.

    The Panopticon is a reality in London.
  • A small minded office manager and owner at the company my girlfriend works for demands that all mail coming through the door may be read upon her whim. Even letters addressed to individuals marked "Private and Confidential."

    Federal offense yes. 1. Proove it. 2. Keep your job, 3. Keep your references.

  • Any letter you send from work belongs to the company - so don't send personal stuff from there. Any letter you receive to you work address belongs to work - something to me arrived opened the other day. Wiretapping is different, because it might infringe on a non-employee's privacy. You shouldn't make personal calls on company time, or with company resources (mobiles are so damn cheap anyway).

    Computers supplied by the company belong to the company. You might walk in one day and find you've been given a new one - don't put personal stuff on it. The network belongs to the company from the patch panel to the back of the PC - don't surf personal stuff through it. The nature of PC networking means that copies of stuff can be found all over the place - for speed and/or security.

    Recent Australian laws fource employers to disclose when/if monitoring of web/e-mail stuff occurs, but quite rightly doesn't put any limits on it, because when you send an e-mail from a company account it's like sending a letter on company letterhead, if it contains something offensive, the company can get it's arse sued. Similarly, if you download porn and another staff memeber is offended, that's a "hostile workplace" and another law suit. Blocking an employer's ability to monitor employee behaviour leaves them blind to potentially very nasty legal stuff.

    Anyway, it's simple - slack of at work, however you do it, and you're not going to be welcome.

  • An "assault rifle" (any rifle that's unusually scary-looking or has a usably large magazine) would be scarcely more effective than a pistol against a standing army, and much harder to conceal or hold secretly, or find ammunition for.

    Question: if they are so useless, why do we arm our armies with them?

    It's easy to get 7.62mm and 5.56mm ammo in America. And if we are keeping these weapons to fight a war with (as I have posited), why do we need to conceal them?

    We aren't getting them to commit crimes with, what do we have to fear? We can carry an assault rifle down the street and the police can do nothing if we don't attack or threaten anyone (caveat: there may be local laws against brandishing arms in public).

  • Interesting comment. But, more interesting is that your sig suggests a completely opposite view.

    You say in the comment that with which most of use agree. That government needs to be heavily scrutinized, lest it flex it's muscles too much and control the lives of the populace. Fair enough, and Nazi Germany is a great example of this. A better one is Stallinist Soviet Union, where the world just didn't KNOW until much later.

    The sig, OTOH, says that individuals can not be trusted to play nicely, and so their resources, means and very lives (eating) should be controlled by someone with the 'foresight' to take care of the needs of society as a whole. Sounds despotic and dictatorial.

    Now, I realize that the sig is there for humoric effect, and that it's as much a comment on resource responsibility as it is on anything else, but...

    There's a very fine line between the rights of the individual and the rights of the society. Nietsche claims, via "will to power", that a person will seek to exert as much control over his surroundings as he possibly can. We're all control freaks, and need to be held in check by a superlative force, such as a government.

    Few people have the capacity to be 'enlightened despots', so society as a whole makes rules for all to abide by. Most people don't care enough, and are too wrapped up in their daily lives, to notice that those who have time, have an agenda - until the restrictive laws are made, and it's too late.

    Same with the business sector. If everyone was left to their own recognizance, few people would do their job. The rules are there to force compliance - right or wrong.

    The corporate rules DO NOT impinge on anyone's freedom, BTW. We're all free to quit and take up farming, or any other profession. Same with the government. In the US, you're free to leave. In some other countries, you have to fight hard to get out - and many of us leave oppressive (politically, economically, religiously) governments to come to the US. Here, Big Brother is just too busy beating up the kid down the street (Yugoslavia, Iraq, whatever) to read our private diaries.

    Oh, crap, was that out-loud? Am I NOT WORKING? Again? Oops.
  • But as they stay in power, one of two things happen: either they become so corrupt that they go bad,

    This certainly does seem to happen. In the words of the old adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". It seems that it is very hard to fight against the psychological effects of having power over others. There have been interesting psychological studies where volunteers have been put into the trappings of power (guards in a mock prison with other volunteers as mock prisoners) and have developed all sorts of unpleasant characteristics that seem to be independent of prior classification of personality - in other words the situation makes the man.

    or they become such zealots that in the cause of their ideals, they throw those ideals away. Look at, for example, the Soviet Union. The Bolshevik Revolution had good intentions; they truly believed in Marx's ideals. And their first leader tried to hold to them.

    This may be true, but you neglect the fact that at the time there was a huge amount of debate within the socialist community as to how to acheive those ideals. The Bolsheviks implemented Marx's ideas in a particularly authoritarian way. They very early on initiated purges against socialists that seemed not to be under the control of the Party. These people included members of the party that were active in the earliest Soviets(democratically directly controlled factories that elected their own management committees which were recallable upon general ballot). Some of these Soviets were organised in the army and navy and there was a strong anti-authoritarian basis to them with many anarchists being involved. Famously this led to the massacre at Kronstadt when the "well intentioned" Bolsheviks attacked the workers and sailors who were protesting that democracy was being taken away (the Party insisted that Soviets were controlled by their bureaucracy rather than by the representatives that the workers had elected who were doing a fine, efficient job) and also the fact that party bureaucrats were getting larger food allowances than the very hungry workers and sailors. This massacre was supported by both Lenin _and_ Trotsky among many others. The moral is, if you start off with authoritarian ideals you get an authoritarian system. That is what anarchists had argued against Marxists from the very beginning. Marxism did not trust people or believe in democracy and its supporters believed that they had to impose it on people. I find it heart-wrenching to look at how close Russia came to democratic socialism at that time and the squandering of the opportunity because of an authoritarian philosophy.

    " Then Stalin came along, and in the cause of freeing the proletariat he enslaved them (if you look at the numbers, he actually killed more of his own people than Hitler did).

    As you can guess from the spiel above I find Stalin an unsurprising development given the co-option of the revolution by the Bolsheviks.

    In Cuba, Castro overthrew the previous government in an attempt to end his people's suffering. But decades later his people still suffer, as much as if not more than ever before, and the ideals to which he clung as a revolutionary have been cast away; he clings to his power now.

    Now there, I cannot agree with you and I think that the statistics will bear me out both historically and contemporaneously: The health and well being of the population under Batista was much lower than under Castro. Further if you compare the health and education of the Cuban population to that of other Latin American countries today it is infintely higher. And all this in the face of crippling sanctions imposed by the US. The US is starving these people of food and medicine, unilaterally trying to force other countries in the world not to trade with them (good for Canada that they are starting to). What would the fate of these people be if there were no revolution? There were would be a small number of very wealthy people who staid in power by means of a US financed military which operated paramilitary death-squads to suppress union activity among the poor who produce McDonalds toys and other consumer crap for the poor in this country. While I wish that Castro had made more of the opportunity to be democratic I can only say Viva Cuba - I hope the people there are smart enough to realize that they chances are greater under socialism. Probably though a sufficient number are prey to the gambling mentality that sees Bill Gates and say "Hey that could be me! It could be anyone!" and thus they will be willing to throw over universal health care and education.

  • Selling one's time does not mean selling one's right to privacy, nor does the corporation's ownership of computer equipment permit surveillance that would be illegal via phone or mail.

    The first one is correct, the second is not.

    Basically, everything on the office computer is not mine. Just because you think of the computer in front of you as 'yours' does not mean it belongs to you. Same for a work email account -- it belongs to your employer who lets you use it.

    If you want to be private, bring your own laptop or PDA to work. Use a wireless modem to access your ISP. If your employer wants to check what's in there you can tell him to go fuck himself and you'll be completely within your rights. Your stuff is private, yes, but "your" office computer and email address are not yours.

    Kaa
  • Monitoring of voice mail, email, and websites browsed is commonplace in many corporations today.

    Don't see much problem here. You are using somebody else's equipment during the time that you yourself sold to your employer. Not to mention that the employer is liable for much of what you do. Courts have construed porn-browsing employees as sexual-harassment environment (not that I agree with that, but reality is reality).

    In other words, deal with it and if you find your employer too intrusive, move. It's not like you are an indentured servant there. (on the other hand, if you have options that did not vest yet...)

    Kaa
  • "...and more on the very real pattern of injustice brought to bear on people through employers and other institutions. Stephenson said he was less worried these days about broad, theoretical privacy issues than about a recent incident in which a stray bullet crashed through a window at a friend's house and narrowly missed a sleeping child."

    Now, admittedly, almmost getting shot in your bedroom is unjust(for most people), and arguably even an invasion of privacy. But unless the guy's boss was in the habit of reminding him to come to work by firing shells through the front window, I have trouble seeing how this is an example of injustices perpetrated by employers & c. What's the connection here?
  • You are intentionally confusing the context, comparing what a benign corporation can do legally with what dictatorial government can get away with.

    Governments *and* corporations are made up of individuals. Accountability always comes down to individuals making decisions. That's the catch, because individuals acting alone do not have the resources or the know-how to pull off gross acts of tyranny and get away with it. The individuals running governments *and* corporations do.

    No, a corporation can't legally murder. But neither can the government. If things get so far gone that a government can and does get away with assasination, well you can surely bet that every big corporation's got a friend in the secret police that can do it for them too.

    Tracing cash does not appear to be either technologically or politically feasible in the foreseeable future.

    It's no difficult feat to scan serial numbers in a counting machine. I wouldn't be suprised if banks already track bills internally.
  • maybe it's time for you to stop running from problems and face them; serve for jury duty when you are called.

    Oooh, ooh, root of the problem.

    A while back in a meeting the CEO of our company rationalized paying off a previous employee rather than going to court saying (paraphrased) "I'm not gonna trust some dumbass jury to do the right thing."

    Cut to about a month later. Offhand comment about an employee taking off to go to jury duty- "Jury duty is for people too stupid to get out of it."

    !!!

    --
  • It's nice to know what people think of each other.

    It's also nice to know of the availability of Kevlar drywall.

  • The other difference is, at least in the US, the government is at least nominally out to serve us. The corporation is out to serve the stockholders, period. The fact that it is hard to do that without customers makes customers a secondary concern. And if you're not a customer, they don't even have to be nice to you.
  • While both governments and megacorps have their faults, the best result IMO would be a balance of power between them. That could do for economic liberty what the balance of power between crown and church did for intellectual liberty in the High Middle Ages-Renaissance period.

    In each case, both sides would be pretty obnoxious if allowed their way, but the compromises they were forced to accept in battling each other opened cracks for less powerful people not particularly aligned with either.
    /.

  • Yes, however, corporations and government don't have opposing views here.

    Neither did the kings and the popes, really. As Holy Roman Emperor Charles V put it, "My cousin Francis [I of France] and I are in complete agreement: he wants Vienna, and so do I."

    The power struggles between the two still had a lot of useful fallout. Similarly, the power struggles between (for example) government trying to collect more taxes and megacorps moving offshore to keep the money themselves have great useful-fallout potential for people trying to keep their taxes low and their financial dealings private.
    /.

  • Kaa, I don't think what Stephenson was saying (I could be wrong, we got so little from the article) was that invasions of privacy are not a problem, but that the invasions of privacy will be conducted by corporations.

    This is Stephenson, author of Snow Crash. Remember how he depicted a world in which governments were irrelevant appendages, and corporations ran everything?

    I suspect what he's saying is that we should be more concerned with Big Babysitters not Big Brother: that the abuses of which we suspect governments could just as well be done by companies.

    Historically, where government has found itself constrained by law or public pressure, it has often enough found ways to impose its will through the corporate sector.

    Someone pointed out the latest example in the Outcast thread. [slashdot.org] Because the British govm't can't directly censor, all they have to do is make a law which allows "any nut with a lawyer" to sue an ISP into oblivion -- which has precisely the desired effect, since ISPs react by self-censoring (or more properly, client-censoring) for self-preservation.

    Meanwhile, consider the history of the United Fruit Company in Latin America. Much easier than declaring war.

    Someone (again, in the Outcast thread) said [slashdot.org]:

    The term "Censorship" is over-used these days, especially in Slashdot type forums. Censorship is something that governments do.

    A lot of people believe that -- I used to. But if we persist in tha delusion that it's only censorship if a government does it, even while corporations start taking over the prerogatives and powers of governments, we're idiots.

    I think maybe that's what Stephenson was talking about.


    ----------------------------------------------

  • Do you really think that the NSA or whatever is actually interested in what you do? Of course not, they want to get to the people who actually do real things, not the latest kernel patch to an OS of no interest to them.

    Maybe, maybe not. To produce a chilling effect on freedom, it's not necessary that Big Brother actually be watching all the time, only that citizens have the impression that he might be - its the idea behind the panopticon [washington.edu].

    Why Big Brother might be watching me:

    • I've had family, friends, and co-workers apply for high-level security clearances; it's conceivable that I've been investigated as part of that process.
    • I've worked on ARPA and NSA funded contracts, which may have brought my name up for attention.
    • I know that my name is flagged for special attention in the national database used for criminal background checks of firearms owners - when I purchased a rifle last year, the check took days, instead of minutes. My paranoid side had great fun with that, while my reasonable side figures it's because my brother (who has the same last name and similar SSN) had a little trouble with the law.
    • I've been spouting my mouth off on the net for years, taking state-unfriendly positions (such as that police ought to be disarmed and citizens armed [unreasonable.org]), spreading information about currently illegal drugs [unreasonable.org], arguing pro-animal rights and pro-environmental positions (which in some peoples' eyes makes me a terrorist sympathizer, if you can beleive it) and generally stirring up trouble; it's certainly conceivable that some domestic surveillance guy put my name on a list for "special attention" after reading a post where I said, for example, that shooting cops who break into your house executing "no-knock" search warrants might be justified.

    All it really takes is the suspicion of surveillance.

    (And I know "Little Brother" is watching me - my credit card purchases, my long-distance calling patterens, my web surfing habits, et cetera, are all of great interest to marketers and salesmen.)

  • My god people, don't you all realize by now that Neal is OBVIOUSLY part of a privacy invasion conspiracy by Big Brother? He is feeding us LIES. Big Brother IS out to get us. Scrutinize your friends and close ones, because THEY might be the next ones, waiting in a dark corner to stab you in the back!
  • "Those who would trade freedom for security will soon have neither" (John Adams?)

    Equating crypto with drive-by shootings is utterly wrong. It is the plea of incompetant authorities who ask for more power so they can do their job easier. They might also actively resent freedom.

    To solve the drive-by-shooting issues, freedoms have to be increased, not decreased. This is very controversial. Freedom to use drugs, so the underworld is deprived of their astronomical profits. Economic freedoms so underclass members can rise.
  • So basically you're saying "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about, and we need to monitor you anyway, because you might be doing naughty things."

    Come on Kaa, this is what Hitler said back when he was in power. In fact, thats an element of any police state.
  • trying to quit your government will get you shot.

    Last time I checked, US citizens (other than convicts) can quit any time they like. It's called emigration. Of course, if you quit then you usually have to vacate the premises, since it's not your country any more.

    Or are you saying you want to quit the government but still get all the benefits of living here? You can do that too, just be a survivalist fuckwad and move to Montana.

  • Oh My God, a science fiction writer with nutty political opinions? Whatever next?

    How about a science fiction writer with nutty religious opinions?

    Oh wait...that's already been done [scientology.org].


    Online gaming for motivated, sportsmanlike players: www.steelmaelstrom.org [steelmaelstrom.org].

  • The difference -- as is obvious to anyone over the age of nineteen -- is that you chose your employer. If you don't like the fact that you are expected to use company equipment for company purposes, quit. Your employer doesn't give you a paycheck and workstation because they pity your lack of broadband access to Napster.

    On the other tentacle, trying to quit your government will get you shot. You may think that not being allowed to download pr0n is worse than being shot, but I disagree.


    --
  • I'm not worried about Big Brother watching me all the time. I'm worried about an infrastructure where Big Brother doesn't have to watch me. Why? Because if, for whatever reason, Big Brother does become interested in me, all he has to do is run a quick query and he knows everything there is to know about me.

    It takes a lot of time, money, and manpower to watch one person. The average joe certainly isn't worth it. Something like Echelon, however, is relatively inexpensive, particularly when you're talking a shared expense among nation sized budgets.

  • I'm not worried about my privacy because of escalon, the FBI, MI5 etc.

    I'm hiding from direct marketing, targeted banner ads and spam spam spam spam, a very real 'big brother' industry who clearly are actively interested in profiling me as accurately as possible.

    Oh, drifting a little off topic, It's good to see one of my favourite authors awarded the ultimate accolade of being recognisable by just half his name.

    - Andy R.

  • We've got two contradictory values going in the recent conversations - The Bill Joy, et-al warnings about knowledge-enabled weapons a la "White Plague", PERHAPS controllable only by a draconian loss of privacy, and the habit of the government to use that intrusion to decide what we read, who we diddle, what we smoke, and all kinds of other bs.

    I am starting to be convinced that 1) we can't control the unibomer's viral-pathologist copycats without giving the government powers that 2) the Ned Flanders/Pat Robertsons/George Bushs will use to crush the freedom that makes life worthwhile, totally convinced that they are doing it "for the children."

    Too many shades of grey for my pea-brain on a slothful Friday afternoon. Maybe a solution to all these issues will occur to a slashdoter late tonight, after enough free beer.
  • The term "Censorship" is over-used these days, especially in Slashdot typeforums. Censorship is something that governments do.
    Corporations have been enlisting the government to censor.

    In the CPHack case, Microsystems / Mattel got the government to issue a restraining order. In the DeCSS case, TROs were issued, and the police kicked down one person's door. In my case [sorehands.com] Mattel just used to cost and threat of lititgation to try to shut me up.

    It's not just the actual acts that are the censorship. The more insidios part is that others watching will see this and self-censor themselfs.

    If you read the libel / SLAPP / first amendment cases, the courts discuss the issue of self censorship.

  • What does Singapore have to do with the United States? Sure there are other countries out there that have little in the way of civil rights or privacy, but why does that automatically mean the United States is the same way, or in imminent danger of becoming so?
  • What's the connection here?

    There is no connection. He was trying to say that people are too frequently obsessed with unfounded paranoia than they are with founded issues that actually affect them.

    A shooting in your neighborhood is a concrete crime, and a wakeup-call in itself that something might potentially need to be done in your area. The "Big Brother" scare routinely touted on Slashdot is largely paranoid conspiracy theories, frequently with zero basis for fact, and always based on the theoretical.
  • The Internet and strong crypto. make such efforts to hide murders more difficult

    That's funny.. I've always figured it was the other way around.

    This is like the ultimate conspiracy theory here -- not only is big brother out to get you, but unless you use strong crypto, they'll KILL you!

    I fail to see how strong crypto or any of the "privacy movement"'s efforts would do anything at all to save the starving Iraqi children you point out. I say "privacy movement" in quotes because I do not consider the bulk of Slashdot YRO posts (which are largely what makes up this article as well) to be representative of the real thing. You'll rarely see so many conspiracy theories among real privacy advocates. They're smarter than that.
  • by jamiemccarthy ( 4847 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @03:01AM (#1146080) Homepage Journal
    According to the article... He illustrated his point by talking about, among other things, the spread of cheap video cameras hooked up to the Internet: An era of widespread surveillance, he said, was on its way. But instead of automatically condemning that Orwellian notion, he suggested that the assembled engineers and coders might work to make the brave new video world work for us all, to enhance safety and security though a kind of global neighborhood watch. The era of widespread surveillance is already here - and it has nothing to do with a "global neighborhood watch." Or the internet, for that matter. If you live or work in a major city, private interests are already capturing you on tape almost anytime you're in public. In this Atlantic Monthly article from July of 1998, researchers describe looking for closed-circuit cameras in a three-square-block area of midtown Manhattan. They found over 70 cameras which covered almost every public place. And that was two years ago. Whenever I try to imagine a science-fiction world where every public moment is taped, I keep coming up with nightmarish dystopias. Maybe Stephenson knows something I don't. [theatlantic.com]

    Jamie McCarthy

  • by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @02:58PM (#1146081)
    Well then, ban firearms. IMHO it's a step that America should take since we are the country with the highest murder rate in the Western world, which is related to our Constitional "rights" to own guns and kill people.

    Unfortunately for Americans, illegalizing guns plays right into yet another paranoid fantasy tht many Americans have: If guns are illegal, then the new World Order(ie Big Brother) will take over.

    Personally, I don't think handguns should be legal. Handguns are for killing unarmored civilians. Assault rifles are for killing invaders, government troops, and Cops. Everyone should have an Assault rifle. It's the final check and balance in the Constitution: At any point the American people can take control of their country from the federal government. No unpopular governing power could survive here.

  • by arcade ( 16638 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @03:14AM (#1146082) Homepage
    OK NSA? How much did you pay for that droid, to imitate him ? Its obvious that you've hidden the body somewhere, but .. that was a damn good hack.


    --
    "Rune Kristian Viken" - arcade@kvine-nospam.sdal.com - arcade@efnet
  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @06:53AM (#1146083) Homepage
    Corporations can quite easily kill you, just like the mafia, and just like the CIA. All it takes is money and access to the right people.

    Remember, we are talking in a context of what corporations special. An individual can kill you just as easily.

    It's not a question of what can be done to you. It's a question of what only a government can do, and what only corporations can do. Jail and executions fall into the first category, but murders do not fall into the second -- not only corporations can murder.

    They can do that now, if you use a check card. They can probably do it with cash too, if it were worth the cost of scanning the money.

    I said "ATM cash withdrawal" -- I am using cash. Tracing cash does not appear to be either technologically or politically feasible in the foreseeable future.

    Of course if you pay for everything with a card (credit or debit), your bank has a very good idea of what you are doing.

    Kaa
  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @05:32AM (#1146084) Homepage
    This is Stephenson, author of Snow Crash. Remember how he depicted a world in which governments were irrelevant appendages, and corporations ran everything?

    IIRC the Snow Crash world was a pretty freewheeling one. The governments were a joke, sure, but the corporations weren't all that powerful either. Most likely you are thinking about Gibson's works (Neuromancer -> Count Zero -> Mona Lisa Overdrive, etc)

    Because the British govm't can't directly censor, all they have to do is make a law which allows "any nut with a lawyer" to sue an ISP into oblivion

    That's a good point, but a "nut with a lawyer" is not a corporation. This is a good example of a government using roundabout routes to get to it's goals, but it's a very poor example of corporate power: Godfrey, after all, is an individual.

    Historically, where government has found itself constrained by law or public pressure, it has often enough found ways to impose its will through the corporate sector.

    I am not sure that's true. You'll have to come up with some arguments and examples (specific to corporations, not random people).

    while corporations start taking over the prerogatives and powers of governments

    That too you'll have to be more convincing about. I assume we are not speaking about lobbying which was a popular activity since at least the Roman times. Can you list some prerogatives and powers that nobody but governments used to have and now corporations (but not individuals) have?

    the invasions of privacy will be conducted by corporations.

    Sure. They were, are, and will be conducted. The difference is in consequences.

    First of all, there are many corporations and one government. It's much easier for government agencies to cooperate and share data about me, than it is for corporations to do so. Yes, I know about consolidation of data into huge databases, but I figure it's going to be quite a while before my ATM cash withdrawals could be cross-referenced against my grocery shopping.

    Second, the threat level is very different. The government can make your life very miserable and, in exterme circumstances, can kill you. The absolute worst that a corporation can do to me is to sue me into bankrupcy. That is quite unlikely, anyway, so the usual worst is that it will deny me service. Well, big deal. My life could become somewhat less convenient for me, but I'll survive.

    I think that the argument "corporations are a worse threat than the government" kind of assumes that being disliked by a Big Brother government leads to approximately the same level of problems as being bombarded by spam. I can assure everybody that is definitely not so.

    Kaa
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @06:09AM (#1146085) Homepage Journal
    The governments were a joke, sure, but the corporations weren't all that powerful either.

    Nope, they were pretty much subserviant to the mafia and a that nut with the aircraft carrier. :-)

    The government can make your life very miserable and, in exterme circumstances, can kill you.

    Corporations can quite easily kill you, just like the mafia, and just like the CIA. All it takes is money and access to the right people. The only thing that stops them is they have a much harder time keeping secrets. Do you really think a corporation is any more moral than a government? At least with government, I have a *right* to citizen oversight. Whether I can exercise that right is another matter....

    quite a while before my ATM cash withdrawals could be cross-referenced against my grocery shopping

    They can do that now, if you use a check card. They can probably do it with cash too, if it were worth the cost of scanning the money.
  • While I definitely understand Stephenson's point, and agree to a certain extent, the reason that I (for example) tend to be more focused on security and privacy issues is because that is something over which I have some control. There is only so much that I can do about stray bullets, sad to say, but I can definitely help people to understand why they need to use encryption software to protect themselves and their privacy. I can definitely help people install and configure PGP, and create key pairs and distribute them. Yeah, maybe it's not as noble a cause as some others, but it's what I can do. I'm a programmer, not a politician, or a police officer, or a lawyer. The same or similar probably goes for most of the readers on slashdot and most of the CFP attendees. People I know trust my judgement about computers and the Internet, so that's where I try to help.

    Too often people try to get involved in what they don't adequately understand (such as politicians and lawyers trying to regulate the Internet), and this is the source of many many problems. I don't know how to help prevent random violence, or shootings, or kidnappings, or most of the other attrocities that take place in the modern world, so I do what I can. I try to help prevent things like privacy violations, to the best of my abilities.

    It's not about hiding things from Big Brother, it's about personal privacy and personal freedom. This is how I can help, so this is what I do.

    darren


    Cthulhu for President! [cthulhu.org]
  • by streetlawyer ( 169828 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @02:42AM (#1146087) Homepage
    Oh My God, a science fiction writer with nutty political opinions? Whatever next? We certainly didn't get those back in the good old days of Asimov and Heinlein, did we?
  • by Erich ( 151 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @03:46AM (#1146088) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that the government is the large totalitarian threat nowdays.

    It's large corporations.

    In 1984, the key to the regime was that the government controlled the information. The Ministry of Truth controlled exactly what everyone saw and heard about events, past and present.

    For the most part, we don't have our government controlling what we see and hear, or what we can read. We do, however, have AOL/TimeWarner, MS/NBC, and a handfull of others controlling what we see and hear about current events. How badly does MSNBC want to talk about the ways in which it has used its monopolistic powers? How badly does AOL/TimeWarner's CNN want to talk about how badly AOL sucks?

    And true, privacy concerns are largely a government thing right now, but we also see private companies Scanning Hard Drives [slashdot.org] and sending information back to the corporate HQ. I have no doubt that private companies will continue to be a privacy threat.

    So, is the Government really your threat, or is it corporations who control the media?

  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @02:46AM (#1146089) Homepage
    People find themselves in different situations and have different needs. I understand why Scott McNealy said there is no privacy -- he doesn't have any and it is impossible for a man in his position to be private. So? There are millions of people whose circumstances are different -- and their values are different, too.

    So Neal Stephenson doesn't think the Big Brother threat is something to worry about. That's fine -- he is well-off guy, upper-middle-class at least, leading a pampered, comfortable life well insulated from the rougher edges of the world. If the government takes a dislike to him, he can hire lawyers and raise all kinds of ruckus. But he may want to think about other people not as lucky as he is.

    I lived (with my kids) in a neighborhood where a rare night passed without a gunshot somewhere around. I also lived in countries where the government is very interested in the details of your private life. Neal Stephenson may have his opinions, but I also have mine: the Big Brother threat is more serious than stray gunfire. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't pay attention to all the other problems of the world, but discounting the dangers of an intrusive, high-on-its-power government is not a good position.

    Kaa
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @05:56AM (#1146090)
    My wife had a mix up involving a bank and a credit card company a few years back. She ended up with an overdrawn bank account that got cancelled and it took us a few months to clear the debt. The mix up was not her fault. There was not trial, and no finding of fault. No formal procedure whatsoever.

    Today, she can not get a checking account. All the banks share information through credit agencies and if they find that you had problems previously they will deny you a checking account. Do you realize how hard it is to live without a checking account? A lot of companies use out-of-state banks, so you can't just cash your paycheck. Direct-deposit? To what?

    She is being punished without a trial, without a chance to defend her actions, and without a chance to even speak to her accusers!! Some manager at a branch office just put her name on a list and -blam- she's guilty!!

    Government is the group that governs, or controls. Government isn't necessarilly comprised of elected officials. If your neighborhood is controlled by gangs, then your neighborhood is governed by gangs. If your life (or a very large part of it) is controlled by corporations, you are governed by corporations.

    We do need to worry more about the corps than about the Feds, because the Feds at least have judges sometimes telling them that they can't do as they damn well please. The corps are free wheeling right now.

  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @03:33AM (#1146091)

    Neal Stephenson ought to spend six months living in Singapore, so that he can experience first hand how great it is to live in country where you can be sure the regime doesn't worry about silly abstract things like privacy and freedom, but where you never have to worry about stray bullets, pronography, or drug trading.

    Everybody who talks about the importance of such things over freedom ought to go and live in what William Gibson called "Disneyland with the death penalty", so they can eat their words...


    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • by jswatz ( 99824 ) <jswatz@well.com> on Friday April 07, 2000 @05:41AM (#1146092)
    Stephenson's speech was a lot more subtle and textured than the discussion of it here would lead you to believe. In fact, he said that he greatly admired people like Phil who have brought encryption to the world, and believes in fighting oppression in all its forms. The underscored point, however, was the "in all its forms" part. He referred back to our hominid ancestors and showed a pie chart of what their threat model might have been. It was about 98 percent HYENAS and about 2 percent OTHER. Once early man developed some good spears, he said, the hyena problem was less pressing--but early man didn't move on to try to conquer threats like intestinal parisites. His point, then, was that we need to update our threat models more often, and more subtly, than humans usually do. He then showed another pie chart. 98 percent was BIG BROTHER. 2 percent was OTHER. It got a big laugh from the crowd, because a lot of people recognized themselves. Stephenson again said that it was important ot expose and fight the bad things that "domination systems" to, but said that we should open the pie chart up to include and focus on other threats as well. In fact, he conceded, his pie chart of the threat model with lots of slices still could have the largest slice devoted to worrying about Big Brother. I hope that this gives a more full description of what Stephenson said in his talk. I wrote the story for the Washington Post, and tried to get as much of that flavor into it as I could.
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @02:51AM (#1146093) Homepage Journal
    He is right about the employers being more of aproblem than big brother governments (at least in the U.S. and Europe). As at now even though stupid laws are either being passed or considered by government, the amount of cases of digital invasion of privacy pale in comparison to the routine rape of employee rights that the average employee now accepts as fact.

    Monitoring of voice mail, email, and websites browsed is commonplace in many corporations today. DNA results are used in making hiring/promotion decisions. Non compete, non disclosure and Ip clauses abound in contracts everywhere.

    It is rather interesting that we can get so riled up on the one hand by what we perceive as invasion of privacy by the government on one hand then close our eyes to the same actions by corporations.

  • by benenglish ( 107150 ) on Friday April 07, 2000 @02:58AM (#1146094)
    ...while I devolve into management consultant/workflow analysis mode.

    This story reminds me of those four-place charts that we've all seen that prioritize tasks. Draw a square. Quarter it. Across the top, label the two columns "Urgent" and "Not Urgent." On the side, label the two rows "Important" and "Not Important." Now throw your tasks into those spaces. If a task winds up in the upper left corner, it's urgent and important. In the lower right, it's not urgent and not important.

    It seems to me that all the speech was saying was (based, of course, on the extremely limited outline in the article that may or may not be accurate) that maybe the privacy-concerned members of our community were putting things in the wrong boxes. The threat of Big Brother knocking down your door is important, but it may not be as urgent as we like to think. On the other hand, keeping a kid from being shot is both urgent and pretty damn important.

    Well, fine.

    That attitude is important as far as it goes. Accusing privacy nuts of not seeing the forest for the trees can have a ring of truth. The problem, though, is that Big Brothers do eventually come to knock down doors. Neglecting important things (threats to privacy and, indeed, life and limb from government) because they aren't immediately urgent is a very dangerous thing, a veritable slippery slope of apathy that is mighty dangerous to ski on. Ignore the tasks in that "Important but Not Urgent" box and, sooner or later, as any experienced entrepeneur will tell you, you'll find those tasks jumping onto the "Urgent" side of the chart and you'll be ill-prepared to deal with them.

    Stephenson is right in that we shouldn't argue principles to the exclusion of taking care of daily life. Unfortunately, though, we must adhere to principles, fret over them, agitate to protect them, and otherwise use our energy to make the world a better place for the great-great-grandchildren we will never see. If we don't, we ensure that those principles, those freedoms we took too much for granted will eventually be tested in ways no one desires. Neglect to fight the good fight in boardrooms, courts, and in politician's offices and someday you or your descendants will be forced to fight the good fight in the streets, by spilling real blood.

    It's been said the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Well, that ain't just whistlin' Dixie. It's as true today as it ever was.

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