Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

Privacy is over

People are worried about privacy. One day someone revealed that a government wa
s secretly screening everyones messages. The people felt their privacy was viola
ted, the government felt its privacy was violated because they really didnt want
you to know they were spying on you. Boy, were they mad.
The powers that be wish to see what youre doing without being seen. Meanwhile the
people wish the powers were more transparent, but they dont like being spied on
themselves. So there is this mutual desire for ones own opacity, and the others
transparency. Secrecy for us, openness for them. As long as people desire pow
er over each other, we have this eternal conflict between the powers that be and
the powers that wish to be. Each side wants to tear down the others walls.
If you have better intelligence on your opponent than he has on you that gives y
ou a strategic advantage in the game, if youre playing a game. Maybe even an unf
air advantage depending on how you look at things.
Privacy equates to secrecy, and for millions of people on the internet the key t
o secrecy is anonymity. One example, political activists face a real risk of ha
rm from their opponents should their true identities be revealed. So, they use
a phony name and wear a mask to try to protect themselves from harm. Now hang o
nto that word because in fact harm is the problem here, not information. The da
nger isnt what someone knows about you, the danger is they might hurt you. Not t
hat I can crack your bank account but that I might steal from it. People hurtin
g each other is the problem, not the intelligence. Lets try to keep that in mind
But having faith in the badness of others, we still think hiding will save us. T
hats folly. For one thing, hiding only works for a while and then they find you.
For another thing, the expectation of evil was never a good excuse to become e
vil and it still isnt. The trick is to always let evil be somebody elses job.
A state claims the right to secrecy in the name of protecting you from harm by y
our enemies. Which enemies? Well, the tradition is that you and your governmen
t are on one side and the bad guys and their government are on the other side.
And some people still believe in that, but its not that simple anymore.
Your government cant share its secrets with you because that would expose them to
the opponent who may be across the world or sitting beside you in the caf. That
means that you must be treated with the same suspicion as if you were the oppon
ent. Functionally you are the enemy of the state. And the more you wish to kno
w their secrets the more of an enemy you become.
Of course you can also turn the game board sideways and show that the real confl
ict is all the people versus all the powers. In reality, the struggle for liber

ation has always been one thing. The powers dont like it when you think like tha
t, but you can.
Anonymity may be a tool for the noble activist but its also a tool for the common
vandal. And thats where things get confusing, because anonymity is also the eng
ine behind all the worst abominations of the digital world. Spamming, scamming,
trolling and the impenetrable silence of corporations who want to manipulate yo
u without getting caught. All those things require a mechanism for doing stuff
without naming yourself. Action without authorship, thats what anonymity is.
You may have noticed that a lot of people enjoy being nasty online. I guess it
gives them a power kick in a time of impotence. To me this is another face of g
amification, because hurting is a form of winning. We play games on the compute
r, some times with each others feelings. We can do this because on the internet
nobody knows youre 12. They dont know if youre really a porn star, a drug dealer,
an FBI agent or her majesty the Queen. In real life you can be one person and
online you can be another.
Being simultaneously two or more people means you can get away with saying nasty
things to strangers, for a while. But it also means youre fragmenting, youre vol
unteering for multiple personality disorder. Personally I dont think thats good f
or your soul. In this life its hard enough to keep your integrity, why choose to
disintegrate. Unless you tell them, nobody knows who you really are.
And to really be somebody is necessary. To say what you mean, put your name on
it, take the shit for it and stand behind it or back down when youre wrong. Thats
what being human is. And believe it or not you can do that in the digital worl
d, you can be human in public.
There was once a political activist who kept no secrets. He publicly announced
every move he was going to make, he made the moves he promised, he tried to do t
he right thing and when he found that he was wrong he was openly contrite about
it. The powers that be regularly jailed him for sedition. He faced a lot of tr
ouble but his policy of being honest served him pretty well. You could say he g
ot away with that openness because he was famous, but how did he get famous? By
using his real name (Mohandas K Gandhi).
I think in our time privacy is over. Life is porous, its full of holes. Everyth
ing is permeable now. Governments and corporations collect info about us, and th
en someone leaks the info and its everywhere.
Privacy is finished, secrecy is obsolete. How do we want to handle that?
I think the trick is to be one person. Be integral. Do the things you dont mind
signing your name to and then sign the things you do. Be the author of your ac
I should probably continue to close the toilet door and shut the curtains to the

bedroom, but I shouldnt delude myself that I can ever keep any real secrets from
the world. I might as well get used to that, at least thats what I think.