thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wikisurveillance, or: Big Brother is "You"

From the lexicon of new surveillance terms. Michael Arntfield writes this on the Identity Trail:
I define wikisurveillance as the manner in which the community at large has been seduced by, or at the very least summarily acceded to, the idea of watching, recording, reporting, and even the expectation, or exhibitionism, of being watched, as the new de facto social contract for the post-industrial age.
On a related note, one of the Dutch Big Brother awards winners is "You". It apparently took a while until the 1984 phrase "Big Brother is you, watching" by Mark Crispin Miller gained enough salience.

I still don't buy this hype and over-simplification. When the person of the year was declared "you" last year by Time magazine, this also met solid criticism. And cultural studies have shown on and on that people don't just give everything away in Web 2.0 and elsewhere, but instead are really conscious about what they publish and how they shape their public identities. Instead of throwing privacy out of the bathwater, we should think about control or informational self-determination as its new paradigm, instead of zero knowledge or anonymity as the normal expectation in the old one. But of course, if you want to give users / citizens control, they have to have the possibility of anonymity in the first place.

And yes, the last paragraph was full of references, but blogs are not academic articles, after all.
Look them up yourself. And then put them in the comments, please.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the current debate in Germany on website operators tracking their visitors including internet protocol addresses does reveal a certain paradoxon. Some of the harshest critics of government snooping react aggressively if the state tries to limit their private data processing (for the protection of others).

It is very tempting to have "tools" (Frattini) at hand that could come useful at some point in the future. Isn't this what even apes do, retain tools for when they are needed? So if you can find out interesting stuff about your fellow wiki authors or your website visitors, why should you delete data and prevent such interesting findings?

For as long as most people - even in the tech community - don't see the answer to this question, privacy will remain a minority issue. How can you convince a law enforcement person to give up useful tools if you are not yourself willing to do so. Data collection, data surveillance, it is all the same issue.


3/10/07 20:23

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Helen Nissenbaums notion of "contextual integrity" is an interesting approach to a different view on privacy which does not exclusively rely on secrecy.

BTW: I liked your new paper in k@g.

5/10/07 10:06


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