Friday, April 29, 2005

fyi Regime for Privacy Protection


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Kobielus kommentary:
“Regime for privacy protection”? Sounds like an oxymoron. Privacy protection by a system, or “The System”? Privacy protection is founded on our ability as solitary souls to keep the system, the world, and all its prying eyes and tentacles at a comfortable distance. The “legal architecture”—i.e., the superstructure of any regime, benign or otherwise—is a regime within which attorneys, judges, jurors, and other third parties invade our privacy membrane for the purpose of defending vs. puncturing it, enforcing vs. invading it, and generally trampling it in the act of “recognizing” it. Likewise, a commercial regime has no interest in respecting our privacy, since companies’ every fibre is bent on targeting, selling, delivering, serving, and otherwise tracking, billing, and extracting payment from us based on whatever identity information they can find on us, and the more the merrier. Sounds about as Kafkaesque as it gets.

Privacy feels like the sort of comfort zone that gets institutionalized at its own peril. It’s the sort of buffer zone that must be maintained by self-interested self-aware evasion, subterfuge, and cloaking. Everybody who every comes into contact with every aspect of our persona inadvertently participates in trampling our privacy, regardless of whether they, individually or as part of a system, regime, or superstructure intend to compile a “superdossier” on us. This notion of a superdossier, continually compiled by a shadowy cabal of ubiquitous conspirators, is the stuff of superparanoia.

Privacy is something we surrender, to greater or lesser degrees, by the act of being born (which leaves at least one permanent public record—two, if you’re in a bureaucratic religious sect, such as Roman Catholicism, that requires that infants be baptized within a certain number of days after birth). God is the prime witness of our entry into the public world, and the county birth registrar comes second.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the most privacy-conscious people the most unhinged? The Ted Kaczynskis of this world. The very people who flee the legal, commercial, and civil-behavior regime that the rest of us choose to inhabit, for better or worse. The sorts of people who see the public world as an all-pervading threat that must be annihilated?

Privacy is important, of course. But let’s not imagine that privacy-protection mechanisms, laws, and other public institutions and organizations can actually guarantee some all-pervading bliss called “privacy.”

They just offer new doors we can shut upon occasion to cloak some personal attribute, behavior, or situation that’s our business. And ours alone. Within the bounds laid down by civil society.