After 9/11, Americans gave up privacy for security. Will we make the same trade-off after COVID-19?
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- Will we give up privacy for security after Covid-19? - STAT
- Apr 8 2020
- Word count
- 2040 words
I wish more people would talk about how if we organized institutions from the bottom up and made them mission-oriented (kind of like tildes.net!) rather than state run or for-profit private interests of some kind of owner class, we wouldn't even really have to make this compromise. Wouldn't it be great if you could trust some kind of organization like Google to use your location data, because if they exploited that trust they could actually be held accountable and it's not just like a "that's business! better luck next time..." sort of deal?
You're onto something interesting here.
Additionally, Americans seem very willing to give away plenty of sensitive data to corporations that demonstrably misuse that information way more than the government.
Those who've been trying to propagate the view that giving information to those who want to make money off it is perfectly fine, but giving it to the government is really a terrible, inexcusably bad thing have managed very well. That split isn't nearly as clear in the societies in Europe I know well.
That's part of creating the whole view that government-run things are bad, and government is bad, while private completely profit-focused business is good. It's disheartening to see how pervasive or even "natural" view that is among many.
That's what happens when you let for-profit businesses run your country. They do everything they can to consolidate power.
There is almost always a need for compromise, because people disagree. Some governance mechanism is needed to revolve the disagreement. Some will be disappointed.
I think differential privacy is interesting.
That would be great. It comes down to finding a reliable way of gathering revenue. There are two time-honored methods: trading units of a good or service for a specified amount of money, and collecting at gunpoint. Other methods have proven tricky.
I don't really have much of a problem with "trading units of a good or a service for a specified amount of money". It's just that the only reason we should ever be "trading units of a good or a service for a specified amount of money" is when the producer of the good or service genuinely believes the product being provided would improve the well-being of whoever they are selling it to, and the sale price has been calculated to optimize the producer's ability to provide the good or service to as many people as possible. If you want an example of a nonprofit, mission-oriented organization that primarily finances itself through the sale of consumer goods and operates in the manner I just described, check out https://www.raspberrypi.org/.
Are there any examples of institutions run like that?
Not as many as I'd like, but I hope it changes. Here's a few that come to mind:
Raspberry Pi Foundation
Thanks for giving examples. From what little I know about how they are governed, it doesn't seem like these organizations have governance models with much in common? For example, @Deimos makes all the decisions for Tildes. This is pretty common for small open source projects, but it's not like Debian, which has elections.
It might be interesting to learn about how governance works in practice for different organizations. Too often, the mechanics are obscured by abstractions like "accountability."
It's not so much about governance, it's about who it's supposed to be benefiting.
Who benefits is a matter of opinion. For example, Google's philosophy has traditionally been to put users first. But you might have a different idea of what that means than they do.
The people who put privacy first and the people who put public health first are both justifying what they do as being for public benefit.
It's not a matter of opinion at all, especially in the case of a publicly traded company like Google, which literally has a legal obligation to its shareholders to make them as much money as legally possible. A for-profit company is called "for-profit" because it's, well, for profit, specifically for the profit of its shareholders. Making the owners some amount of passive income is literally always the number 1 goal of a for-profit company. Contrast this with nonprofit organizations which do not have owners and are supposed to exist in order to solve some kind of social problem.
People repeat this constantly, but it's not actually true.
Wow, that's so strange. I have heard this claim in so many places, everywhere from Al Franken to the New York Times.
I will say that I was under the impression that it was limited only to publicly traded corporations.
But does this mean you could, for example, convince a bunch of shareholders to make you the CEO of an oil company and then run the company into the ground, and as long as you never actually stole any money or exploited your position to personally enrich yourself, all they could do is fire you?
Of course, companies get run into the ground all the time. Investors can sue in cases like securities fraud where the company is hiding information about how poorly they're doing, but it's not illegal to just run a company badly (and definitely not to run it well but not "optimally").
I don't mean just being bad at your job, I mean actively undermining the operations of the company with malice and intention.
Thanks for the examples, but all of these are pretty small or niche, compared to state-run institutions. Are there any countries that do this at a state run level?
You know, if we had a President Obama, or even Clinton, or even Romney, I'd probably trust the government to use mobile phone data to help people quarantine. However I have not one single iota of doubt that Trump would abuse this power to further hurt communities of color and activists.
Given that a variety of republican institutions have already been found to be repeatedly doing this, this is almost a certainty.
I wouldn't, if only because once these powers are granted, they're never revoked.
That hasn't worked well for literally any other time emergency powers were granted.
Remember all the rhetoric at the time? 'Don't change your lives or the terrorists win!'
Well...I wouldn't say they won, but they certainly didn't lose by that metric either. The police state gained a ton of power less than 2 weeks after 9/11, and we've been waging an especially never ending war ever since.
From the article: