David Brin writes in Wired today a response to critique of his book The Transparent Society, in which Brin posits that "its argument that freedom is best served when all citizens have enough knowledge to hold each other reciprocally accountable."

I agree with Brin on this point. In the critique, Bruce Scheier highlights a potential problem with a Transparent Society, that not all transparency is equal. Those with power can wield your information much more efficiently against you than you can wield it over them. As examples, he mentions a traffic stop and a visit to the doctor's office where the police officer had much more information about you than you do about the police officer.

I think though that this is changing significantly and both doctors and police are not necessarily happy about it. For example, it is much easier to access solid medical information and research and be able to ask informed questions of your doctor. There is no longer a blind trust. In addition, there are now doctor-rating sites in the vein of the teacher and professor sites. (a police themed site was recently disabled by GoDaddy). Also, the police are very uncomfortable with the idea of being videotaping, as the Instapundit has highlighted.

These developments are on the whole a positive. But Scheier is also concerned about the fate of citizen to citizen privacy. Brin writes:

Attacking a caricature of my position, Scheier suggests that transparency would end
privacy, making everyone walk around naked. It does take some mental flexibility
to realize how a generally open society will be privacy friendly. But it was a
generally open society that invented modern privacy.

Again, I agree with Brin. In some ways, the open society is already here and it is happening amongst the current up-and-coming generation of Internet users. The values of conventional privacy are being tossed aside willingly. People are letting Big Brother right through the front door, but we are not in dystopia.

At a TED talk, Larry Lessig mentions that today's children are growing up with no conception of intellectual property. The same is true of privacy. In both cases, there are definite drawbacks, including the idea that not everyone in your life may appreciate your openness.

However, as more people willingly expose their lives to the Internet, we are realizing that the bulk of most of people's life is rather boring, but that other things are surprisely interesting. Who wants to wade through the dreck to get to the good bits? If we imagine everyone doing this, you would realize that almost no one would care. On the other hand, we have found that there is a much larger spectrum of thought and views than media had previously presented us with.

Along this extreme, you realize that if all your secrets are out, then it becomes difficult for any one to use them against you (You could call this the Clinton Theory). Of course, this would assume a free, liberal society where you would not be prosecuted for what you think and say. Also, this type of thinking has worked on the Internet to a point, because when people do say things beyond the pale they risk being ostracized, not by the government, but by their peers. Freedom of thought and speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

As Brin states, this could help protect privacy, in the sense that while much of your life is public, your can still live your life privately from the government, from corporations, etc. Also, from other citizens, in a kind of MAD strategy. You have bombs, I have bombs. If we launch, we are all destroyed. Maybe, we should not launch them.

In addition, we should not only be cautious about restrictions on freedom, but also about false transparency or half-transparency. In a society where we are accustomed to sharing more and more information, there is an incredible urge by large organizations to filter or edit the information and say "we are being transparent." In the long run, this could be a greater threat than all-out fascism.

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