Between Paranoia and Naivete

This op-ed was written by the political editor of the German paper ‘Die Zeit’. He summarizes the historical/cultural perspectives of Germany and the US regarding data protection and rights to control personal information in electronic systems.

He recommends both nation’s approaches should be on the table for discussion to decide “best practices” for data protection.

But he makes some key assertions I disagree with.

He states:

1) A future dictatorship’s use of Facebook would be “the least of your problems”.

  • But actually Facebook spying is very valuable to dictatorships because it reveals contacts and thoughts.

2) Citizens of “liberal societies” are not “experiencing a change in values” and “no longer feel uncomfortable sharing personal even private information”.

  • There is no change in values. Research shows people care just as much as they always have about privacy: ie control over what personal information they share with whom.  People care most about controlling who sees sensitive personal health data—but in the US we have no control.
  • The problem is that privacy/personal control over pii was not built into electronic systems.

3) Re: the Internet as an “emergent system” which “functions so well because it works equally for everybody” and “might cease to offer the greatest benefit for the greatest number”.

  • The Internet has already brought an “advantage to a minority–the rulers”.  He fails to recognize that the Internet is controlled and who controls it now.
  • Lawrence Lessig’s classic book “Code” explains that software and hardware, ie ‘code’ regulates the Internet and determines who controls it.  We must legislate/regulate technology in order to build a cyberspace that supports fundamental democratic rights and values.
  • The NSA/Verizon revelations are proof that a minority in fact control/rule the Internet to the detriment of all; and to the detriment of freedom and our human and civil rights to be “let alone”.

To view the full article, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/opinion/between-paranoia-and-naivete.html?_r=0#!

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