[ExI] snowden paradox: was: RE: Sanders, Clinton and Trump

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu May 19 14:23:11 UTC 2016

On 2016-05-18 20:10, spike wrote:
> Depends on how you view cell phones.  My view is that anything you do 
> outside your own home is visible, so it is legitimate for anyone who 
> sees you to see you.  And record what you do out there.  Inside your 
> own home, not.  Outside, you are spraying informative photons 
> everywhere.  Observers, nosy neighbors, local constables, anyone who 
> can see you: they are not so much intercepting those photons as you 
> are hurling photons at their eyes.  Or their cameras.
> Ja?
> Inside your own home, if they put some kind of device in there, that 
> is illegitimate. Fourth amendment stuff, illegal for governments to 
> do, violating your security in your letters, etc.  Do review the 
> wording and note this is not a permission, it is a right, and 
> governments do not have permission to violate a right.

One of the problems here is other governments. Your government has no 
right to intercept your private information without good reason... but 
that does not apply to my government: to them, you are a foreigner. And 
vice versa.

There is also the issue of government A asking (or "asking" without 
saying it) government B to look at a citizen of A, so that A can learn 
information it is not constitutionally allowed to look for but now got 
from an unrelated source. Legal, but against the spirit of the law and 
incidentally revealing information about the citizen to B.

One can argue that there is a universal human right to privacy. It is a 
moral right: it may or may not be encoded in law, but it should be. 
Human rights are iffy from a philosophical perspective; people disagree 
in what sense they exist. But it is not hard to see that many human 
activities are best done privately: if I am held responsible for 
half-baked ideas that I will later abandon (maybe I should break the 
law?) or idle curiosity (like googling for dangerous stuff) that will 
not lead anywhere, then we will both be deprived of choice and 
information as well as the freedom to come up with truly new things.

Still, the issue is not transparency/privacy but secrecy and 
accountability. If somebody uses you likeness or information in ways 
that are harmful to you, do you have a legal or moral recourse? A system 
giving tremendous power to some actors must also give them equally 
tremendous accountability - and if it has failed to do so, it needs to 
correct itself.

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