Freedom's Just Another Word for Getting Away with Something

I am very interested in the new uses of DNA identification. I am a big fan. Seems to me little evil has come of it and much good. Facial recognition is well on its way too. In ten years police cars might be scanning faces as it rolls by.
I am all in favor of privacy in my home, in my writings and communications. But I do not see privacy issues with these technologies. Yes, they could be misused, but most anything can be misused.
Is freedom and privacy nothing more than the ability to get away with something?

The anxiety lies partly around the definition of “getting away with something”: not everything one might feel some authority or the wider public has no right to concern themselves with is actually illegal, but there is always a risk of “mission creep” in the development of technologies. It’s the same argument as “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” - but why shouldn’t people have something to hide? Why should they be publicly accountable for every aspect of their lives?

But there is also the point that one can put too much faith in what such technologies seem to reveal, bearing in mind the need for context and point of view (even before widespread CCTV surveillance this was a selling point for a newspaper)

You refer to possible misuses, but it’s a question of being able to define the boundaries adequately.

China is a good example of surveillance technology I’m not comfortable with.

I don’t want my DNA public, and the US government has already allowed hackers to access my personal information.

That’s when I begin wearing a surgical mask when I am out and about. For health reasons.

Why? What are you trying to get away with?

On its face, anonymity-busting technologies shouldn’t be inherently problematic. The concern comes from the balance of power between the government and the citizenry. If I’m going to allow the government to know who I am and where I am at any time and place, then government should operate with a similar degree of transparency. I should know what information the government is collecting about me at all times. I should know whenever the government records my face and puts information about me into a database, or at least have the ability to see that information whenever I want - instantaneously. Moreover, I should be able to see that information, but not everyone else. That way, there’s a balanced relationship between the government and me the individual, and you the individual, without us having to sacrifice our anonymity and privacy to individuals without our permission. I don’t necessarily like the idea of government knowing everything about me, but if it does, then I want the ability to know as much about the government in return.

The problem occurs when we give the government greater power to work in secrecy on the one hand while giving it more power to invade our privacy and know the most intimate details about us on the other. That’s an information imbalance, which ultimately encourages and leads to authoritarianism.

I like asahi’s comment. There can be little harm in knowing what the government know about us. We ought not to know what the government knows about other people.

But on the other hand, what should Tony Soprano about government surveillance efforts?

I have a reasonable expectation that my writing and communications are private, just as my grandfather did. When I walk down the street or drive my car, I expect the police might take note of my presence, just as my grandfather did.

In the case of DNA, I honestly do not see an expectation of privacy should I father a child.

Am I mistaken?

To add to what I said earlier, I would also submit that there are two aspects to this discussion: there’s collecting the information, and then there’s also accessing and using the information. We need to establish clear guidelines for when this information can be accessed, and by whom, and how it can be used. In other words, collecting the information, which we all probably by know is a reality of 21st Century life, is one thing, but giving someone permission to analyze our individual data and make decisions that impact us based on that analysis are two entirely different things. Generally speaking, the only time anyone ought to have the legal authority to access and analyze our individual data should be an evidence-based investigation into suspected criminal activity. There should be clear procedures, and there should be clear oversight.

Well, why? Having a child out of wedlock is not a crime. Finding the father to provide financial support is a public good.

Would it be wrong, or an impingement on privacy for the Traffic Bureau to know you travel a certain route to make sure you pay your fair share? When you drive around in car with a license plate on it, you sort of expect people will know who you are.

The automation of it is creepy, but it is a difference in quantity, not of kind.

We are heading towards a world with ZERO privacy. The really scary technologies are much further along than anyone should be comfortable with.

Mind Reading Algorithm Can Decode Pictures in Your Head.

Can You Recover Sound From Images? Yes. Yes you can. Another interesting thing from that video, with quality sound mapping it is possible to determine keystrokes just by sound.

Of course there is also Van Eck Phreaking but I think that relied on CRT monitors which are mostly gone.

When only a certain percentage of people have access to these technologies it will be scary. Do you think that amoral politicians will have any compunction against using these things to maintain power?

A difference in quantity becomes a difference in kind. As you say, our grandfathers understood that if they went out in public, Officer Friendly or Old Mrs. Grundy might see them, recognize their faces, and take note of where they were going. (“Oh, he’s going to the liquor store again! Why, that’s the third time this week!”) But I would submit that there is a difference between that, and some database where (potentially) every single place you go outside your own home is logged and recorded for posterity (along with the ability to cross-reference your movements with the recorded movements of everyone else to form a record of not only where you were but also who you were there with).

Yes. There is a difference. But where exactly do we draw the line? When does it stop being helpful and become creepy?

Without a doubt, privacy was a brief period when we lived in cities large enough to hide and and dumb enough not to have automated systems watching us. Call it 1800 until just about now.

So what if the police (or the traffic office) can tell how often you go to the liquor store? How does that impact me?

“Looks like you’ve got some pretty unhealthy habits there, sir. You know, there’s really no amount of alcohol that’s actually good for your health. And, we see your license plates all over the place, but we rarely see your face on the sidewalks or walking trails. (And of course we know exactly what you’ve been buying at the grocery store, too. Yikes!) We’re going to need to raise your health insurance rates–substantially, in fact. Your employer is also very concerned about all this–a healthy worker is a productive worker!”

Maybe it’s a matter of not succumbing to the notion that we are probably guilty of something simply by existing.

Just by the way, I found a neat site that links to open webcams around the world.

Again, collecting the information itself isn’t a problem; what people do with it could be. I have no real problem with the Traffic Bureau collecting data on my whereabouts. This is already an irreversible reality. Your phone carrier, Google, Apple, Facebook, and pretty much any government already have this power and they’re not giving it up, simply because they operate on having this kind of information.

What we would like to assume is not happening, or not frequently anyway, is that there is a faceless individual watching us, stalking us, getting to know us and our intimate details without us having a chance to understand who they are and why they are interested in us. I don’t think government should have the power to stalk people. That’s not what free societies allow governments to do.

It becomes creepy when we don’t have standard practices for when and for what purpose individual decision makers can analyze our personal information to make decisions that impact us personally. Even in public, I have a reasonable expectation of anonymity and to be able to go on about my business unless there is a legitimate reason for people to know me. Even in public, if I meet a stranger on the street, I have the right to refuse giving out details about my identity. I don’t have to give that person my name, and this includes law enforcement officials unless they have reason to believe I may have committed a crime or are about to do so.

Suppose in the future we have an enhanced version of Google Glass with facial recognition technology that feeds into a database that can pull up volumes of information just based on recognition alone. That would fundamentally change how we view our sense of self. Suppose some people can afford that technology but not everyone. Now people - government officials or just wealthy individuals - can have information about you without you having that same capacity. It would change the balance of power between those who have that information and those who don’t.

I think the OP poisons the well by suggesting a desire for privacy indicates a desire to get away with something. As I understand it, certain human “rights” are (or should be) of inherent value. IMO, it is sufficient that I prefer privacy/anonymity. Rather than me proving why my privacy should be maintained, I think the burden ought to be on the state (or whomever) to prove that an intrusion is warranted.

Privacy and speech are simply among the basic freedoms I value most highly. But, I am aware that they are increasingly vanishing in today’s society.

Now that might be exactly the concept I am stumbling with. It is sort of like the “right to be forgotten.” A new concept, but I like it.