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Friday, January 04, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Good article on the ability (and NON ability) of private citizens to monitor those who monitor us. via Instapundit

The candidates didn't trust me because the editorial page of the newspaper I worked for had endorsed their opponents. But the encounter always bothered me. How can a verbatim record of a conversation increase the chance of being misquoted?

At the time, I hesitated for a moment and considered walking away from the interview. But I changed my mind and put the tape recorder away. In hindsight, I should have said, "Look, I can't take notes as fast as my tape recorder can. Why don't you go grab a tape recorder, too. We'll both tape it. If I misquote you, you can prove it."

The problem they had -- and one problem with surveillance in general -- is that it upsets the balance of power. Whoever has the tape has the power to use, not use, selectively use or misuse the information or proof or evidence recorded.

Privacy as we know it is going through a major reorientation. The assumption of anonymity that we've all grown comfortable with is simply no longer valid. And it will get worse. But instead of privacy advocates getting all freaked out and Canute-like trying to command the tide of technology to flow backwards - we should be making sure that we put into practice laws which promote the widest possible use of surveillance technology. Ordinary citizens should have the absolute right to record every interaction they have with government officials.

The power of surveillance is dangerous only when an elite group has access to the information. If everyone can have information on everyone else - including us observing the authorities who observe us - information becomes less powerful.

David Brin wrote an excellent book on this topic - The Transparent Society - which is well worth reading. Check it out on The Idiom library!

UPDATE: More reason to make sure we have eyes on who's watching us.


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