Monday, January 14, 2013

Limits of Radical Transparency

Where does radical transparency fail? Even an extreme proponent of openness needs a bank account, a social security number, a sex life. In most areas of my life, I think I would welcome radical transparency, if it applied to everyone, not just to me. I can see yours, you can see mine. But if I can see all your bank information, I could withdraw all your money. If I know your credit card numbers, I can use them to buy stuff. If I know all your personal information, I could borrow money in your name. And although my sex life would make the most boring porn ever, that doesn't mean I want it out there.

I'm not sure how David Brin answers this question. He wrote the book on this (The Transparent Society), in which he pointed to the basic problem. Cameras keep getting smaller, smarter, more mobile. People want to use them, and some people will use them even if this usage breaks the rules. Brin thinks privacy is done for, that our only choice is, does everyone get to do this, or shall we reserve it for the rich, powerful, and unscrupulous?

Assume Brin got it right. Where does that leave us?

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