Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Opposite of Privacy

What is the opposite of "privacy"? "Publicity" should inherit that legacy, but has been disinherited. Many people use "transparency" or "openness" for this purpose, but then the opposite of those is "secrecy", which is not the same as "privacy".

I doubt I am the first to notice this intransitivity. Please put hints in the comments if you know whose words can help.

I suspect that in the future we will feast on transparency, nosh on secrecy, but suffer a famine of privacy. David Brin convinced me, in his book The Transparent Society, that nothing can stop the powerful from using ever cheaper, smaller, more mobile cameras and microphones to spy. We can only ask, will the weak spy on the powerful as well?

What separates privacy from secrecy? Secrecy carries a cognitive and spiritual burden and warps reality, requiring the secret keeper to sacrifice authenticity. If I have a secret, I may have to lie to my friend to keep that secret. If it was a private matter, my friend would not insist on being informed, or if it accidentally came up, he would allow me to refuse to expose a private matter. Technology recruits us all into espionage - for spies there are only secrets; social convention or friendship do not constrain them. They have no private matters.

The website "Photography is not a Crime" shows how much the police hate to be spied upon. They rightly fear that their human imperfections will disappoint the audience.

And we all have imperfections. Perhaps the death of privacy will force us to find another, more constructive method for sheltering our egos from our imperfectness. Better to deal with it than deny it. How can we ease this transition?

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