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Privacy is so 20th Century January 13, 2011

Posted by shwaldman in Society, Technology.
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I was reading this article on the MIPro Consulting web site. It raises some good questions about privacy and current examples in the news. There is a lot of concern that our Constitutional rights are being violated when government or corporations use our information for any reason. As a global society now, we need to break down that sentence for it to really apply.

Although these examples are not exactly the same, I cite the following headlines to draw the connections…. The Italian courts recently ruled that web sites are responsible for the content they host. The Amazon, the largest book seller in the world, was recently forced to stop selling books because they contained offensive content, despite free speech laws. We have Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) that can provide clear images of any location in the world, regardless of fences or “Private Property” signs. And of course, every time Facebook, the digital social network of 500+ million people, changes their security scheme, a new uproar starts. Each of these headline stories have ties to privacy rules and raises the question: Where do we draw the line?

I think it is time for a real world discourse to begin on how our privacy works in a global world. We live in a world very different from the one in which our Founding Fathers wrote our founding laws. I am pretty sure the only things they thought would float in the sky above were stars or planets. Now we have planes, satellites, unmanned drones… and we keep talking about flying cars.

Changes in Technology have forced changes in laws. Before the 1900s, there were no laws about cars, prior the 2000s there were no laws about texting. Each iteration of the improvements in our world warrant changes in how we have to enforce individual safety. And unfortunately for us, the faster technology seems to bring life at us, the slower our law makers seem to adapt and accept these changes.

Now is the time to accept that Privacy is over. We need to stop thinking that the information on digital devices can be kept inside the walls of the “owner” or even that there was an owner. I can not say I am happy about this either, but I have come to accept it. And here is the (most recent) reason… this past week our country watched as a gunman opened fired on a public crowd in an open parking lot for a political event. How do I draw this link, you ask?

In the days following the attack, people have asked how could this have happened? Each day more and more details come out about how this individual had mental challenges. People knew he was unstable. The government had denied his applications for service. His father even had a conflict with him that very morning. And yet this individual was able to buy a gun and ammunition. He was able to freely walk up to a dedicated public servant in a crowded open area and shoot her in the back of the head before turning on other innocent individuals.

If you think nothing could have been done to prevent this incident, you need cross-reference this with the futuristic movie, “The Minority Report.” The information is the available. The computer horsepower is there. What we need are laws that actually protect people and property, not rights. The right to free speech is limited to protecting people. The right to everything else should be the same way. If what you are doing, or could do, is a danger to other people you should be held responsible. And we need to build our social system around that concept. That means, yes, public health needs to come back as a priority. It was eliminated in during the Reagan Presidency and there certainly still individuals preventing it still. But without a public oversight, the private sector will never be safe.

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