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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Sunset is an angel weeping / Holding out a bloody sword
— Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage
February 3, 2008
The Searchable Soul

From Harper’s Magazine, January 2000 issue. An interview with Mark Costello, Michael Moynihan, Ron Sege, Alan Westin and moderated by Colin Harrison

Michael Moynihan: …technology has miniaturized what’s needed to store immense amounts of information, and…linked up those repositories of information all around the world.. Now information can be pulled together from diverse sources very rapidly. Today, for example, the tax returns of the entire country could be placed on several CD-ROMs.
pp. 58

Westin: One of the questions we ask in survey research is this: When you think about threats to your privacy, which are you most concerned about—government or business? We found that 55 percent cite government, 43 percent cite business and a few people say both or neither.

Ron Sege: Like any good business, we survey our users to try to understand the aspects of our service they like the most and would like to us improve. Far and away the leading features our users are interested in are related to personalization….for me to give you MyLycos, you have to tell me something about yourself.
pp. 59

Moynihan: …to function in the information economy these days, you’re compelled to provide your personal information…At first I did not want to join the local supermarket, thinking, Why do I want to tell Safeway how much yogurt I’m buying? But I soon recognized that if I had the affinity card, I would get a 50 percent discount on a lot of items. It didn’t take me long to sign up.
*Westin:*All you’re saying is that you put an economic value on your privacy and that it mattered to you when you weighed getting the benefit.
pp. 60

Moynihan: The risk is that we could become a society in which your future is predestined at birth. When if you come, informationally, from a certain neighborhood, that information becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, defining the sort of offers that you receive, your credit opportunities, your school choices…
pp. 65

Westin: We should recognize, though, that there’s no information, no matter how personal or how sensitive, that some individuals will not disclose in what they think is the proper protective context….There’s no such thin as information per se that individuals will not disclose. It depends to whom they are disclosing it.
pp. 65

Frighteningly enough, this was published just a year and a half before September 11, 2001’s terrorist attacks.

Westin: If terrorism in the United States were to get really serious, the FBI directory could say: You know, we’re going to need the encryption keys, and we’ll set up a public key system. We’ll give it to courts, and we’ll give it to the Department of Commerce. He’d argue that the ability of Americans to walk down the street in peace will depend on it. That would be a very power argument. Wait until the first subway attack with gas.
Moynihan: It would totally turn the debate upside down. Scruples would vanish. We need to remember that we are living in an environment that is the most conducive to privacy in decades, yet privacy is decreasing.

Posted by skooter at 4:12 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Articles, Privacy

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