Freedom's Just Another Word for Getting Away with Something

Good (early) morning. Thank you all for your comments.

Good argument! Oingo Boino sings

Big brother’s watching, we watch him back
We see right through his disguise

There was a book I read some years back about privacy, surveillance, and government transparency—I looked but couldn’t recover the title & author—that argued privacy is dead, but the best strategy for citizens and civil liberties was to monitor the government in return.

Right, and these don’t even have to be illegal things. Maybe the wife decides to try something new in bed* and I visit the BDSM shop across town. I don’t want my mother or her mother knowing about this, nor would I want people I work with or most of my friends to know about it.

Or maybe instead of going to the liquor store, I am going to AA meetings three times per week. And then a month from now, I am tracked at a local bar. Does everyone need to know I had a relapse? Again, my mother, my employer, my preacher, the nosy neighbor, anyone?

What if I am gay and choose to remain in the closet because some people I know might not accept that? Should it be noted when I go to a gay nightclub?

Freedom of movement is part of personal autonomy and it doesn’t have to be something nefarious and illegal that you are doing to want to keep certain things to yourself. Now maybe some or all of the above are things that I should not keep to myself, for example having a relapse; maybe that should be aired so that I get an intervention as soon as possible.

But in a free country, that is my choice above anyone else’s.

*just a hypo, I doubt this will happen. :slight_smile:

Or used to promote crimes that impact innocent people.

Recently a school teacher was fired because a student go ahold of a topless selfie she took. The teacher never put that out on social media - I’m guessing her ex-boyfriend did. It’s not illegal to take a topless photo of yourself, but because someone else had a copy and decided to broadcast it the woman lost her job and will likely have to get a new career.

That seems horribly unfair to me. She did nothing illegal, yet she is suffering a great penalty for the actions of other people.

And that’s why we should all be concerned. You may be doing nothing illegal but something you’re doing could be taken out of context and used against you. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?

Could it be this?
David Brin’s The Transparent Society

In a few decades, everything we do in public will be recorded - not just by the government, by corporations, and by private individuals recording their own lives and surroundings. We need to be able to use this information to prevent abuses of power of all kinds, by individuals, by corporations, and by government bodies.

In addition, at some point all this data will be in one huge searchable pile that will be retained forever. Your grandkids will be able to track your movement fifty years ago. (This does have some important historical uses. If we could read tweets from ancient Rome we would and we should, but when does “history” begin?)

Yeah, I think so, thanks. “Sousveillance” is today’s vocabulary word.

The timing is certainly appropriate (Brazilian twins must both pay paternal support, since they’ve been playing turn and turn about for years).

Chimeras (people who have two or more sets of DNA) might have a problem. I know that I and several other female coworkers had problems with the first computers to use fingerprint ID (the sensor was based on conductivity and apparently that changes with the day of the month; we solved it by each of us asking another one to “lend me a finger”, since thankfully we weren’t synched).

And in a world in which the US government collects every misspelling of a person’s name that they can find and calls it an “alias”, I think there’s already too much surveillance.

I kind of feel that if everyone’s lives were an open book to everyone else, people would by necessity stop caring so much about a lot of these things. Everyone does things that, because they are private, are looked down upon by many people - sometimes even other people who do the same thing put on the public appearance of looking down on it.

Of course, the problem arises when there is an imbalance. When some people get to get away with things, while others don’t. Since usually the ones who get to get away with things are the people in power, this causes problems, like what XT is pointing out in China.

My dream situation would be eliminating ‘privacy’ entirely, for everyone, so that all people can see all things about all other people. I could be wrong about the results, maybe this would be bad even in my opinion if it ever happened, but I think it would overall be positive. However, this is unrealistic; without some kind of magic or nonsense technology, it’s not possible to make this a two-way thing. The powerful will always be able to hide what they do better than everyone else.

So, in the real world…I don’t know what the right level of privacy is. I know I roll my eyes at a lot of the ‘privacy’ concerns people make. Some of them, however, are probably important because of this imbalance of power, but I don’t know which ones, really, or have the slightest clue what the best state of affairs would be, given realistic limitations.

I disagree. I think making everything public, including beliefs and/or lack of belief, will lead to very ugly levels of peer pressure, bullying, and ostracism.

We all wipe our asses after shitting. That doesn’t mean I’m particularly interested in seeing people wiping their ass. Some things should remain private, mmmk?

Are beliefs something to be ashamed of and kept quiet? That sound more dangerous than having an open attitude to faith (or its absence).

For 99.9% of modern human existence minorities have been persecuted for their beliefs. Every era persecutes, it persecutes with either soft power or hard power. A generation or two later those persecuted are often tolerated or even celebrated. Now, in the near future we may get to a state of human existence where people are not persecuted for their beliefs. However, I’m guessing we won’t get to that lofty stage. We’ll keep persecuting. The persecutors will persecute in the misguided certainty that this time their hostility towards others is fully justified.

Persecution will happen more if people hide their beliefs. If your beliefs are worth having, they are worth having openly.

We’ve tried this. It didn’t go well.

I’m sure we as a species have tried this multiple times, in fact, but I have in mind the specific example of the Pilgrim colonies in Colonial New England, where everyone lived in small towns, everyone knew everyone, and you either conformed to the narrow dogmas of the time and place or you got cast out. Rhode Island exists because enough people were, in fact, cast out that they could form their own colony, and that isn’t even touching on the witch trials, which were violent scapegoating of disfavored members of various communities for diverse reasons relating to the economy.

In order for us to take your idea seriously, you have to come up with a way to prevent people from being hypocritical and partial in their application of social norms. Nobody has yet succeeded, and the reasonable conclusion is that nobody is going to succeed.

For the vast majority of human history people have been persecuted for having worthy beliefs. What makes you think this time is different to any previous era?

The fact that everyone in the Western World, and much of the rest of the world, can potentially communicate instantly with everyone else in that cohort has changed the nature of human relations significantly? If there is any persecution going on anywhere, everyone on Earth can know about it in minutes.

There’s a good argument that a certain amount of ability to “get away with something” is essential to social progress:

I think this would be the case too. I originally thought that showing everyone just how high the levels of “deviant” behavior are would make the behavior unremarkable (i.e., “40% are adulterers, 60% cheat on taxes, 50% cheat on the SAT, 70% say they would commit such-and-such a crime if they could, 70% are self-admitted racists”), but it probably wouldn’t make people accept it any more. Take the Trump phenomenon, for instance. The knowledge that 62 million Americans voted for Trump doesn’t make Trump’s opponents despise Trump supporters any less - something being commonplace doesn’t make it less despised.

I think this doesn’t work because the people involved aren’t having THEIR ‘deviant’ behavior exposed. If everyone has their own ‘deviant’ behavior exposed, I suspect it would work. But, it’s simply not realistic; can’t happen, can’t even be genuinely tested, so there’s no way to prove or disprove what I think. You’d need a pretty substantial population - several hundred thousand people - living under these conditions for a significant period of time to see what the real results are, and that’s just not really a practical experiment to undertake.