Arnold Kling  

Body Scans and WikiLeaks

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Tyler Cowen writes on Wikileaks. He links to Ross Douthat, who writes,

WikiLeaks is at best a temporary victory for transparency, and it's likely to spur the further insulation of the permanent state from scrutiny, accountability or even self-knowledge.

I think the government may try to close up, but it will not succeed. I think that both body scans and WikeLeaks are part of the same trend, which is toward less privacy. See David Brin's The Transparent Society. Brin would prefer a more idealistic social equilibrium, in which privacy-invading technology is widely available while cultural norms constrain its use. I think we may move in that direction, but it will be through ugly lurches rather than idealistic design.

My point is simply that everyone has to plan for having less secrecy. Diplomats and "secret" agents have to operate under the assumption that there is a non-zero probability of exposure of their words and actions. Ordinary people have to assume that they can be caught doing things that twenty years ago they would have gotten away with. Cell phone records alone give away as much information as it used to take a private detective months to obtain.

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CATEGORIES: Growth: Consequences

COMMENTS (4 to date)
Mike Gibson writes:

I also like David Friedman's discussion of transparency in Future Imperfect. He makes the interesting point that in the real world, we will see increasing transparency in our lives and in those who govern.

But online or in cyberworlds, strong-privacy will rule.

Unless someone develops mosquito sized cameras to watch us at our lap tops.

Carl writes:

Privacy is dead. Deal with it.

Hyena writes:

The problem with declining privacy is that we still get most of our information through selective channels. This gives everything a sense of import, even when it's actually unrepresentative or without real impact.

Transparency isn't the problem, it's that the systems which use it put information under a lens, magnifying small things and causing disproportionate damage or concern.

Hyena writes:

Basically, when you hear it from a friend, you know it's gossip and that it won't have a lot of impact on your opinion, even if true. But when that same gossip is broadcast on CNN, it gains a sense of import because we expect CNN to be selecting important information.

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