Thursday, 15 February, 2001

Privacy is whose responsibility?

With all the stink about privacy concerns over the past few years, I've seen very few articles point out the painfully obvious:  privacy is, first and foremost, your own responsibility.  In Want Privacy?  Help Yourself Without Laws, Duane D. Freese makes a very good argument:

Should people who live in glass houses seek a ban on binoculars? Or fines for neighbors who talk about them? Or penalties for passersby who look in instead of away?

Or should people who live in glass houses simply buy drapes?

Technological solutions to social problems typically fail, as do legislative solutions to technical problems.  Politicians tend to rush legislation so that they can demonstrate to their constituents that they're "doing something," thus increasing their chances of re-election.  New laws are often passed to "do something" about whatever issue is currently hot.  All too often, there are existing laws that cover the hot issue, and introduction of new legislation just muddies the waters.  According to Mr. Freese, the privacy issue is one such case.

If you want things to remain private, then don't discuss or display them in public.  As Mr. Freese puts it:  "if you want real privacy protection in the open house that is the Internet, put up some electronic drapes. Don't count on laws that are nothing more than costly window dressing for the ambitions of politicians and the overwrought fears of some privacy groups."