Monday, April 17, 2017

Bending Privacy

The right to privacy is in fact a contested right, although alluded to in the US Bill of Rights (see here).

Despite its ambiguous status in the law, privacy is a central cornerstone in the political and economic philosophies of classical liberalism.

One cannot have personal liberty without privacy.

Unfortunately, privacy seems recently to be upheld only when it suits the powers-that-be, as illustrated by the Trump White House's decision to withdraw from public view the White House guest roster using privacy as the pretext:
Julie Hirschfeld Davis (2017, April 14). The Trump White House. The Washington Post, Stories about President Trump’s administration.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, breaking with the Obama administration’s practice and returning a cloak of secrecy over the basic day-to-day workings of the government.

Mike Dubke, the White House communications director, said the visitor logs were being withheld because of “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”
In the case described above, privacy is upheld in order to obscure government transparency.

In contrast, in the case illustrated below, privacy is entirely forfeited to market incentives as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives votes to repeal Internet privacy rules:

Josh Harkinson. (2017, March 28). Republicans Just Voted to Let Internet Service Providers Sell Your Browsing History Advertisers will be able to track your habits without you even knowing. Mother Jones,

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Tuesday repealed privacy rules that would have required internet service providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable to get consumers' consent before selling or sharing their web browsing data with advertisers and other companies.

"Consumers should be in control of their own information," Rep. Jared Polis, (D-Colo.) said in testifying against the bill. "They shouldn't be forced to sell and give that information to who-knows-who simply for the price of admission for access to the internet."

The vote overturned rules passed in October by the Federal Communications Commission that tightened limits on what internet service providers (ISPs) could do with their users' data. The rules, which would have taken effect later this year, required ISPs to notify consumers about the type of information they collect, and obtain their consent, before selling it to third parties. The rules also made ISPs more accountable for preventing data breaches.
In the age of the Internet, few things are as intimate as one's browsing history. Yet, revealing and intensely personal internet browsing histories have now been rendered into commodities over which users have little control.

Browsing histories will ultimately be deployed as data whose patterns and particularities will be mapped in order to better control the population by marketing agents and other propagandists.

Welcome to the Brave New World.


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  2. From Don Smith Opednews 04/18/17

    The Republican Jesus
    republican JESUS

    "You were sick, so I tried to repeal your health care.

    You were in prison, so I tortured you.

    You were in debt, so I increased military spending by $50 billion and raised your student loan interest rates.

    You were uneducated, so I slashed education funding.

    Your air, water, and food were polluted, so I cut environmental protections.

    You were poor, but I didn't want to encourage dependence, so I gave more money to the rich."

  3. Snowden talks privacy at law school civil conference. Very good


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