The push for Internet privacy Internet privacy consists of privacy over the media of the Internet: the ability to control what information one reveals about oneself over the Internet, and to control who can access that information. controls combines a bad theory with a dangerous agenda.
Over the past week, I received about two dozen unsolicited mass e-mails, otherwise known as "spam." About half were devoted to sex, including six messages promoting a new Hustler Web site and one paradoxically promising a site "SO HOT WE CANT SHOW IT ON THE WEB." Most of the rest advertised the stuff of late-night TV commercials and dubious classified ads: "LUXURY CARS FOR UNDER $1000" from government auctions, family histories and coats of arms Here is a list of articles that discuss and/or depict coats of arms. Articles in bold face are specifically about a particular coat of arms. Arms for corporations, etc.
I wasn't interested in any of them. None of the spammers had bothered to find out the most obvious facts about me - Hustler is not known for its appeal to women - much less to determine, for instance, that I have an excellent credit record and don't play golf.
Spam costs virtually nothing to send, and it bothers the people who receive it. That upsets "privacy advocates" and their friends in Congress: "No one - from the consumer to the small business[es] who run servers - should be forced to pay for unsolicited advertisements," said Rep. Chris Smith Chris Smith is the name of:
The cost to Internet service providers Internet service provider (ISP)
Company that provides Internet connections and services to individuals and organizations. For a monthly fee, ISPs provide computer users with a connection to their site (see data transmission), as well as a log-in name and password. can indeed be substantial, and suits by American Online, Earthlink, and other ISPs have already forced big-time spammers to pay large damages for violating the ISPs' terms of service (networking) Terms Of Service - (TOS) The rules laid down by an on-line service provider such as AOL that members must obey or risk being "TOS-sed" (disconnected). . But for consumers, spam should be of no more public concern than grocery lines, Sunday drivers, or squirming children in restaurants; it is simply part of living with other people, and the solution is as close as the delete key On computer keyboards, the delete key (sometimes shortened "Del"), should, during normal text editing, discard the character at the cursor's . To demand legal action every time something annoys you is the surest way to end up living in a conflict-filled society ruled by intrusive regulation and constant litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. . Telling people to hit "delete" or let their ISP (1) See in-system programmable.
(2) (Internet Service Provider) An organization that provides access to the Internet. Connection to the user is provided via dial-up, ISDN, cable, DSL and T1/T3 lines. know they're being bothered won't attract TV cameras, however. For that you need a crisis and a bill.
Cyberspace is full of "crises" these days, many involving "privacy rights," and Congress is full of bills to address them, 32 by one count. What really has privacy advocates riled rile
tr.v. riled, ril·ing, riles
1. To stir to anger. See Synonyms at annoy.
2. To stir up (liquid); roil.
[Variant of roil.]
Adj. 1. isn't spam but its exact opposite: targeted marketing information. Cyberspace offers people the chance to easily find others with similar interests - hence the flourishing of specialized Web sites and Usenet groups. That same efficient search, enhanced by sorting software, has commercial applications. Web sites can collect data from the people who visit them and either display individually tailored advertising or send visitors product information later. Or they may not be interested in individual information at all but in general patterns and aggregates: What is the average age of our audience? Which parts of our site are most popular? Where do our visitors come from?
The answer to the burning question, How is anyone ever going to make money on the Web?, probably lies in collecting and efficiently using such information. Eventually commercial sites must pay for themselves, and one of the most promising ways to do so is to use them to find customers for other products and services.
Absent a single, government-imposed rule for what information can be gathered and how it can be used, commercial Web sites have taken many different approaches: Some let individuals choose exactly what to reveal about themselves and how to let the information be used. Others tell visitors how they intend to use information and leave it to each visitor to decide whether to stick around. Still others say nothing at all, letting the surfer beware. (Common sense goes a long way in those cases: Ira site asks your name, address, and telephone number, chances are the company may someday try to sell you something, and it may also rent or sell the information to others.) Meanwhile, software has been developed that gives Web browsers The following is a list of web browsers. Historical
Historically important browsers
In order of release:
This laissez faire Laissez Faire
An economic theory from the 18th century that is strongly opposed to any government intervention in business affairs. Sometimes referred to as "Let it be economics. regime not only allows different strokes for different folks. It also lets bootstrapped Web sites grow without immediately creating complex systems for managing information from visitors. It allows small operations to informally poll people without violating federal laws. It permits experimentation and learning. It fits the flexible, diverse, entrepreneurial, sometimes-amateurish world of the Web.
Very little of this commercial activity has hostile intent The threat of imminent use of force by a foreign force, terrorist(s), or organization against the United States and US national interests, US forces and, in certain circumstances, US nationals, their property, US commercial assets, and other designated non-US forces, foreign nationals, , unless you consider advertising assault. But it displeases people for whom "privacy" is an absolute. Under pressure from privacy lobbyists, the Federal Trade Commission is out trolling (1) Surfing, or browsing, the Web.
(2) Posting derogatory messages about sensitive subjects on newsgroups and chat rooms to bait users into responding.
(3) Hanging around in a chat room without saying anything, like a "peeping tom." the Web, looking for Looking for
Testifying before a House subcommittee in late March, Marc Rotenberg Marc Rotenberg is a law professor and the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). He teaches at Georgetown University Law Center. He has won a number of awards, including the EFF Pioneer Award in 1997, the Norbert Wiener Award for Social and , the director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Electronic Privacy Information Center or EPIC is a public interest research group in Washington D.C.. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values in the , condemned the variety and gradual evolution of privacy standards. "Where once individual consent was central to the disclosure of personal information, now the focus is on individual choice for a range of disclosures," he said. "Where privacy techniques focused on the means to protect identity, now the focus is on means to obtain information. Many of the techniques that are put forward as 'technical solutions'...will make it easier, not more difficult, to obtain information from individuals using the Internet. Something is clearly amiss."
Rotenberg is infuriated in·fu·ri·ate
tr.v. in·fu·ri·at·ed, in·fu·ri·at·ing, in·fu·ri·ates
To make furious; enrage.
That which is inalienable cannot be bought, sold, or transferred from one individual to another. The personal rights to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States are inalienable. right, that is an intolerable situation.
By their nature, new communications technologies make it harder to keep secrets: "We shall soon be nothing but transparent heaps of jelly to each other," worried a London writer in 1897, concerned about the telephone. And there is no question that the general public is anxious about protecting privacy in cyberspace. They've heard lots of scary stories about stalkers, child molesters, con artists, and credit card fraud Credit card fraud is a wide-ranging term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or any similar payment mechanism as a fraudulent source of funds in a transaction. The purpose may be to obtain goods without paying, or to obtain unauthorized funds from an account. . They've read George Orwell Noun 1. George Orwell - imaginative British writer concerned with social justice (1903-1950)
Eric Arthur Blair, Eric Blair, Orwell . They're easily persuaded that every corner of the Web is filled with vicious evil people. "Privacy advocates" like Rotenberg tap into that generalized fear - much of it a fear of totalitarian government - into justify a broad agenda of commercial regulation, based on dangerous assumptions about the nature of information and identity.
True to our technocratic political culture, people are unwilling when asked about the subject to be patient. A much-cited Business Week poll found that 53 percent of respondents said that "government should pass laws Pass laws in South Africa were designed to segregate the population and were one of the dominant features of the country's apartheid system. Introduced in South Africa in 1923, they were designed to regulate movement of black Africans into urban areas. now for how personal information can be collected and used on the Internet," while 23 percent said that "government should recommend privacy standards for the Internet but not pass laws at this time." Only 19 percent said that "government should let groups develop voluntary privacy standards but not take any action now unless real problems arise." As David Medine, the FTC's point man on the issue, told Business Week, "This is the last year for industry to demonstrate effective self-regulation."
Before we rush to replace diverse and voluntary standards with a single, inflexible approach, however, it's worth considering the many different issues subsumed under the label "privacy" and "personal information." The stakes are much higher than advocates like Rotenberg often admit: In the name of privacy, activists are pushing serious restrictions on the freedom to gather and disseminate truthful information - otherwise known as freedom of speech and the press. They are demanding that businesses provide valuable information without reaping anything in return. They are seeking to impose today's preferences, technologies, and limited imagination on the unknown and evolving future. And the world of stifled speech they want to create is not limited to a few big players in a well-defined (and implicitly suspect) "industry." It includes everyone who sells anything or collects any information in cyberspace: from Time Warner Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), formerly known as AOL Time Warner, is the world's largest media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered in New York City, with major operations in film, television, publishing, Internet service and telecommunications. and Yahoo! to startup entrepreneurs working out of their spare bedrooms and teenagers gathering e-mail addresses of fellow Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (born November 11 1974) is a three-time Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning American actor who garnered world wide fame for his role as Jack Dawson in Titanic. fans.
Privacy advocates begin with the assumption that you own your "identity" - all the disparate information about yourself - and therefore have the right to control which information is available to others. That's what That's What is one of the more idiosyncratic releases by solo steel-string guitar artist Leo Kottke. It is distinctive in it's jazzy nature and "talking" songs ("Buzzby" and "Husbandry"). Rotenberg means when he refers to "consent." Such activists want to require that before someone can tell someone else a fact about you, the teller should have to get your permission; you exclusively own the facts about your life, your "personal information."
But this premise simply isn't true. The other party in any relationship - whether your former landlord, your boss, your ex-girlfriend, or Amazon.com - owns information about you as surely as you do. Gathering and sharing such information is as old as gossip and is absolutely essential to a free society. Neither speech nor commerce can function if such communication is illegal. Privacy advocates want to outlaw not only journalism but reputation.
If we are in fact worried about what happens to electronic information about our lives, well-established systems of contract and criticism can control who says what to whom, with whose permission. The very systems Rotenberg scorns for emphasizing "choice" over "consent" allow parties to agree in advance which information, if any, will stay private. Breaking such an agreement would violate contract law. And just making the deal leads Web sites to invest the time and effort to create systems that will honor it. That's what "privacy policies" are all about.
Nor is contract the only check on unwanted information sharing See data conferencing. . Criticism works too, especially when directed at companies that must compete for customers. Faced with outraged clients, America Online See AOL. reversed its decision to let telemarketers use members' phone numbers, a practice that wasn't specifically forbidden in its terms of service. Amazon has been careful to protect the information it collects about customers' book-buying habits, using it internally but not offering it to outsiders; that information could be quite valuable to other direct marketers (including REASON), but its sale would create an enormous controversy. (The obvious way around such controversy, of course, is to offer lists only of customers who have agreed to be on them - a contractual solution.)
Neither contract nor criticism is perfect. Leaks happen at private organizations, just as they do with grand juries, the Internal Revenue Service, and prosecutors' offices; they just happen somewhat less frequently, and the legal consequences for the leaker are swifter and more severe. Earlier this year, an AOL (A division of Time Warner, Inc., New York, NY, www.aol.com) The world's largest online information service with access to the Internet, e-mail, chat rooms and a variety of databases and services. employee blatantly violated the company's contract with customers by telling a caller which AOL member had a particular screen name. That information led the Navy to begin discharge proceedings against a decorated, 17-year-veteran sailor for being gay. The sailor successfully sued the Navy on the grounds that its investigation violated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but his career was seriously disrupted. Clearly AOL should be liable for breaking its contract in a particularly damaging fashion. And the company has come in for stinging criticism, forcing it to take very public steps to reassure customers that such problems won't happen again.
Lawsuits and ostracism ostracism (ŏs`trəsĭz'əm), ancient Athenian method of banishing a public figure. It was introduced after the fall of the family of Pisistratus. aren't good enough for Rotenberg. The AOL case, he says, "shows the shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.
Shortcomings may also be:
To Rotenberg, however, that horror story horror story
Story intended to elicit a strong feeling of fear. Such tales are of ancient origin and form a substantial part of folk literature. They may feature supernatural elements such as ghosts, witches, or vampires or address more realistic psychological fears. is a convenient prop to justify restricting the sale of marketing information - a completely unrelated matter - and establishing a federal privacy agency. Instead of permitting diversity, choice, and enforceable contracts, he and other "privacy advocates" demand that we trust our privacy to the very federal government whose investigator convinced an AOL employee to violate company rules and whose policy forces gay service members to assume false public identities.
In his House testimony, Rotenberg tried to wrap his notion of "privacy" in American constitutional law, by quoting a famous dissent by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Rotenberg wanted to suggest that spammers, marketing databases, and customized Web ads somehow violate fundamental rights. But Brandeis was making quite a different point. The Constitution's Framers, he wrote, "sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone - the most comprehensive of all rights and the right most valued by civilized men."
This right, however, has absolutely nothing to do with infringing other people's freedom to communicate. It is quite explicitly a right against the government, enshrined in the Fourth Amendment's protections against search and seizure search and seizure
In law enforcement, an exploratory investigation of a premises or a person and the taking into custody of property or an individual in the interest of gaining evidence of unlawful activity or guilt. . It says not that you own every fact about yourself but that the government cannot invade your home, your papers, or your life without giving an awfully good reason.
There are serious privacy issues in cyberspace, issues that go to the heart of such constitutional guarantees; they involve government actions such as wide-ranging subpoenas of database information, misuse of IRS An abbreviation for the Internal Revenue Service, a federal agency charged with the responsibility of administering and enforcing internal revenue laws. files, or warrantless seizure of private "papers" located not in someone's house or office but on a third party's server. In contrast to commercial transactions, all this information is obtained through coercion, and the government's intentions are not benign. If privacy advocates really want to assuage as·suage
tr.v. as·suaged, as·suag·ing, as·suag·es
1. To make (something burdensome or painful) less intense or severe: assuage her grief. See Synonyms at relieve.
2. public fears of Big Brother, they should concentrate on curbing the government's police power, which is exercised without the check of competition, rather than working to suppress commercial speech.
Instead, to achieve their idea of "privacy," activists want to obliterate o·blit·er·ate
1. To remove an organ or another body part completely, as by surgery, disease, or radiation.