Originally Posted by rbryanh
Privacy? We might as well discuss the rights of the passenger pigeon. It's sad they're all dead, but we didn't give a damn about them while it was still possible to save them, and now that they're gone nothing we can do will bring them back. Dead dead dead. Gone gone gone. Got it? Me too. Now can we all stop whimpering
It's the same with our charmingly quaint notions about privacy, and the reasons are as clear as the situation is inevitable.
Because it's difficult to control people you don't know, authorities of any kind always regard the privacy of those they command as anathema. True, the church is dead, the state is dying, and the corporation is the dominant institution of our time, but the corporation finds your privacy unacceptable for the same reasons its cultural predecessors did, only more so.
Corporations correctly regard the privacy of individuals as an impediment to profit, their raison d'être
. No problem In America, the US Supreme Court has officially declared purchase of elected officials a Constitutional right, completing the last fifty year's transformation of the state into a corporate subsidiary. US Law is now legally for sale on the open market, and corporations are not about to let their Congressmen deprive them of billions of dollars of marketing data just to get points with a few hysterical constituents. There is and will be no privacy: all debating it will change is the degree of effort devoted to concealing this central fact.
Add to this the cultural trend of invading one's own privacy (e.g., Facebook) and fetishizing the invasion of others' (e.g., all "reality" TV), and you have a culture where people are far more likely to masturbate themselves to sleep over this issue than march on the Capitol about it. America is particularly instructive: Americans are a people who allowed an unelected President to dismantle their Constitution in order to protect them from a minor threat, and have since done nothing to repair the damage. A nation which accepts warrantless wiretapping and torture of political prisoners is not going to care who's tallying where they eat lunch. Americans are for the most part a people too ignorant to understand the issue, too miserable to care, and the entities which benefit from this apathy know this very well.
There's really nothing new in any of this The degree of privacy possible has always been inversely proportional to any authority's ability to violate it, and that ability is now nearly absolute. Let's save our tears for something that really matters, like spilt milk. The most that can be achieved by crying over privacy will be a slight increase in a line item in the "government relations" budget of a corporation or three.
The issue of intellectual property, however, still has potential power because corporations can't profit without it, and profit it is all that a corporation is
. Business requires an environment where every thought, feeling, activity, object, notion, idea, or fact in the universe, real or potential, can be productized. This is impossible without robust IP law, and the gap between individual and corporate rights is not yet so vast that ordinary citizens can't occasionally take advantage of the rights corporations have purchased for themselves. The potential winning strategy here isn't "see no data, hear no data , speak no data," but rather "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."
There's nothing anyone can or will do about the fact that Inc., Inc knows all about you. There are possibilities, however, in the fact that Inc. paid you nothing for what it knows about you. Chasing the amorphous lost cause of "privacy" will achieve nothing, but claiming the hard cash fact of "ownership" could win the day.
If a company knows where you ate lunch yesterday and you've not been compensated for that information, you've been robbed. What we need first is law which permits the copyrighting of such personal data by the very individuals who create it, and then to take mass legal action against any entity which uses it without paying royalties. This could be done using the same legal framework that corporations use to defend their own intellectual property, thus hoisting them on their own P&L.
We can't protect ourselves using privacy laws. Such laws benefit corporations not at all, and consequently the governments they own aren't going to pass anything other than toothless gestures in that direction. Corporations will happily scrap every privacy statute on the books - such entities have everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so.
There are, however, very sharp limits to how much business can twist IP law without hanging itself. Business needs those laws to exist at all. Once, say, Disney realizes that its efforts to lay legal claim to your behavior without your permission may interfere with their ability to own Mickey Mouse from now until to the heat death of the universe, they'll put their monetary priorities in order and start paying you to provide them the trivia of your existence rather than stealing it from you.
If we legally make our personal data our personal property, corporations may have a very difficult time stealing it without shooting themselves the foot. They'll do the numbers, create an app that allows us to sell them everything they want to know about us for a series of microcharges, and then claim the whole idea was theirs in the first place, all part of the deep, abiding love and respect they bear for their customers. Most of us will sell our souls (and business will be content), and if those who choose not to are wronged, they'll find they have more recourse than any mere privacy law could provide.