Mark H. Wood mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Wed Mar 23 20:06:41 CET 2011

On Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 10:34:27PM -0400, Robert J. Hansen wrote:
> My own dark suspicion is that what we have always thought of as
> "privacy" is nothing more than an inefficiency in information exchange.
>  So long as information exchange has a certain cost threshold, it's not
> worth my time or effort to share information about you.  As that cost
> threshold diminishes, so too does our privacy.  If it cost a penny to
> leave a YouTube comment, Rebecca Black would have twelve people
> scattered across the world who had said something bad about her.  Since
> it's free, though... well, she has no privacy anymore, and I feel very
> sorry for her.

An interesting thought.  I'm going to keep this one.

My suspicion is that we never had anywhere near as much privacy as
many believe.  A hundred years ago, when nobody had computers or
databases or Internets, everyone in town knew your name, your address,
your occupation, your family, your approximate economic status, your
(ir)religion, your circle of friends, and many past deeds you'd rather
have forgotten.  We may actually have *more* privacy these days, when
so much can be done in secret and only the machines know until someone
thinks to ask the right one in the right way.

> If I'm right, then the only way to restore privacy is to raise the price
> of information transfer in some way.  OpenPGP can be thought of as this:
> to recover a message the attacker has to undertake actions that involve
> at least some measure of expense.

We can also raise the cost of improper use of information.  I don't
think there's been enough attention to this.  If Alice draws
insupportable or downright illogical conclusions about my character or
status from my online presence, and on the basis of those conclusions
makes decisions on my employment or my insurance premiums or whether I
ought to be prosecuted for something, can I punish her *enough to make
her stop*?  If she's following company policy, can I punish the
company *enough to make it stop*?  Enough power can make privacy

Mark H. Wood, Lead System Programmer   mwood at IUPUI.Edu
Asking whether markets are efficient is like asking whether people are smart.
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