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April 03, 2005

April 4th, 1984

[In response to criticism from the ACLU,] Bellwood's mayor said he welcomed the suggestion that his town might be considered something akin to a Big Brother-land. 'I wish we could create that image. I would love that,' Mayor Frank Pasquale said with a chuckle.

For some reason the telescreen in the living-room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting, and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.

The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speakwrite which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:

April 4th, 1984.

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Posted by Peenie Wallie on April 03, 2005 at 08:52 PM



A Taxonomy of Privacy

George Washington University Law School

Privacy is a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means. As one commentator has observed, privacy suffers from "an embarrassment of meanings." Privacy is far too vague a concept to guide adjudication and lawmaking, as abstract incantations of the importance of "privacy" do not fare well when pitted against more concretely-stated countervailing interests.

In 1960, the famous torts scholar William Prosser attempted to make sense of the landscape of privacy law by identifying four different interests. But Prosser focused only on tort law, and the law of information privacy is significantly more vast and complex, extending to Fourth Amendment law, the constitutional right to information privacy, evidentiary privileges, dozens of federal privacy statutes, and hundreds of state statutes. Moreover, Prosser wrote over 40 years ago, and new technologies have given rise to a panoply of new privacy harms.

A new taxonomy to understand privacy violations is thus sorely needed. This article develops a taxonomy to identify privacy problems in a comprehensive and concrete manner. It endeavors to guide the law toward a more coherent understanding of privacy and to serve as a framework for the future development of the field of privacy law.

The actual paper is a 1 MB PDF file, available at the above URL.

Posted by: Robert on April 05, 2005 at 03:48 PM


Three cheers for the Surveillance Society!
In the brave new future, Big Brother will watch our every move. But that's OK, because we'll be watching him too.

By David Brin

Aug. 3, 2004 | Ten centuries ago, at the previous millennium, a Viking lord commanded the rising tide to retreat. No deluded fool, King Canute aimed in this way to teach flatterers a lesson -- that even sovereign rulers cannot halt inexorable change.

A thousand years later, we face tides of technology-driven transformation that seem bound only to accelerate. Waves of innovation may liberate human civilization, or disrupt it, more than anything since glass lenses and movable type. Critical decisions during the next few years -- about research, investment, law and lifestyle -- may determine what kind of civilization our children inherit. Especially problematic are many information-related technologies that loom on the near horizon -- technologies that may foster tyranny, or else empower citizenship in a true global village.

Typically we are told, often and passionately, that Big Brother may abuse these new powers. Or else our privacy and rights will be violated by some other group. Perhaps a commercial, aristocratic, bureaucratic, intellectual, foreign, criminal or technological elite. (Pick your favorite bogeyman.)

Because one or more of these centers of power might use the new tools to see better, we're told that we should all be very afraid. Indeed, our only hope may be to squelch or fiercely control the onslaught of change. For the sake of safety and liberty, we are offered one prescription: We must limit the power of others to see.

Half a century ago, amid an era of despair, George Orwell created one of the most oppressive metaphors in literature with the telescreen system used to surveil and control the people in his novel "1984." We have been raised to a high degree of sensitivity by Orwell's self-preventing prophecy, and others like it. Attuned to wariness, today's activists preach that any growth in the state's ability to see will take us down a path of no return, toward the endless hell of Big Brother.

But consider. The worst aspect of Orwell's telescreen -- the trait guaranteeing tyranny -- was not that agents of the state could use it to see. The one thing that despots truly need is to avoid accountability. In "1984," this is achieved by keeping the telescreen aimed in just one direction! By preventing the people from looking back.

While a flood of new discoveries may seem daunting, they should not undermine the core values of a calm and knowledgeable citizenry. Quite the opposite: While privacy may have to be redefined, the new technologies of surveillance should and will be the primary countervailing force against tyranny.

In any event, none of those who denounce the new technologies have shown how it will be possible to stop this rising tide.

. . .

You can read the rest of the article for free at http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2004/08/04/mortal_gods/index_np.html (you have to click on the "Free Site Pass" and watch an ad, but it's worth it.)

Just try videotaping armed employees of the state and see what happens...

Posted by: Robert on April 05, 2005 at 03:59 PM

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