[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: "why privacy" revisited

On Fri, 21 Mar 1997, Timothy C. May wrote:

> The best arguments are not those couched in terms of "benefits" to
> society/markets, but in terms of "lowest common denominators." I favor the
> "Schelling point" view, and have espoused it here often.
> In most Western systems, a reasonable Schelling point is that various
> actors agree not to try to enter the "private spaces" of others. For
> example, my neighbors and I agree not to enter each other's houses to pry
> and inspect.
> (The Schelling point is that this "boundary" point is essentially agreed
> upon even though my neighbors and I have never formally negotiated it...as
> with animals and their "territories," certain equilibrium points are
> reached.)
> In Western systems, it is recognized that the _costs_ of coercively
> entering another's home and/or private space are too high, and so we
> declare there to be a "right of privacy." In reality, what we mean is that
> we accept a private domain as a Schelling point.

I think you're answering the third meaning of "why privacy", "why DOES
privacy exist?"  This is a positive rather than a normative question
(which is what I was asking).  I agree with you that most likely privacy
exist because in some sense it is an equilibrium in the game of life.  But
what I'm asking is whether it is a desirable equilibrium, and whether a
new equilibrium involving more privacy is better than what we have now. 

> I reject the argument Wei Dai mentions, that market benefits could obtain
> if society rejected privacy, for two reason. First, because in an important
> sense rights are not the slaves of corporate or personal business
> interests. (E.g., my interest in Alice's television viewing habits does not
> trump her right to keep me out of her house.). Second,  because so-called
> "market efficiency" is largely an illusion anyway.

Certainly no real market is perfectly efficient, but some markets
are relativly more efficient than others, and most markets are more
efficient than alternative forms of economic organization (e.g.,
socialism) so I don't see how you can call "market efficiency" an
illusion.  The inefficiencies I was talking about were relative to the
case where both parties have the same information.

Also, I don't quite understand your first argument.  It seems to suggest
that privacy should exist for no reason in particular.  If this is the
case then it doesn't make sense to argue about the costs/benefits of
privacy. But it is my understanding that most cypherpunks believe more
privacy benefits everyone, and therefore work to making more privacy for
everyone.  What I'm looking for are arguments that support this belief.