Intro: MeatBall:TransparentSociety. Basically a book by DavidBrin where he argues that currently those with lots of resources have the means to invade your privacy, that in the old days there was very little privacy, that therefore privacy was maybe a doomed concept, and what sort of alternative would we want. The transparent society is a society where privacy is lost in both directions. Not only can you spy on other people using public cameras – other people will also be able to see that you spied on them. Hopefully that would level the field somewhat.

I find the links to public webcams on and their integration into Google Maps, in combination with the Locate Me feature of mobile phones to be an eye opener.

One step towards a bidirectionally transparent society would be the mandatory registration of your webcams, and the linking of your webcam to your personal or corporate profile or something like that. Then anybody can use the cams, and we know who put them up.

Also note the Surveillance Screensaver mentioned on the JWZ blog entry linked to from the Meatball page.

Consider the possible use of digital cameras (both those generating DSC images and those generating continuous transmissions) in the contexts of…

  • being able to patch into the security camera systems that are becoming all pervasive in most public places
  • the combined use of “facial recognition” software that can identify all of the images in which your face appears.

Since this combination now makes it possible to find a set of frames which can be used to establish one’s “known” locations, at specific times, all kinds of interesting possibilities open up. For example…

  • It becomes much easier to establish an alibi (or discredit an “illness absence” excuse) if you are provably in a specific place at a known time.
  • Even more interesting is the use of this combination of technologies in conjunction with Credit and Debit card timestamps to show who your dinner guest is and just how often you are entertaining him or her.
  • … I could (but won’t) go on. The movie “Enemy of the State” is a (scarier) summary of what is already possible.

At a much lesser level, flickr has already had to caution its users that the Cameras EXIF data can reveal where (and When) they are.

We may yet have no choice but to “behave” as if we are always under scrutiny. The question I find interesting is “Will the ability to watch how people behave make society better or not”? After all, Privacy is most sought for by those that have something to hide.

Currently Wikileaks is doing the Wikipedia:United States diplomatic cables leak. At the same time, Julian Assange was arrested on rape charges, and companies like Paypal, Mastercard, VISA, and Swiss Postfinance kicked out Wikileaks. Shame on them!

All of this seems to be the world adjusting to a coming Transparent Society. As companies are spying on us as we surf the web using cookies such as the Wikipedia:Evercookie, javascript, and prepared Flash animations; as governments force providers to keep logs of our online activities; as biometric data in our passports keep invading our privacy, we adapt. We don’t mind. But we presume to look back at the big corporations, to leak their secrets, to expose their corruption, their double speak, their lies.

I’m with Wikileaks.

The view expressed by Alex should at least prompt each of us to think this through and strive to formulate a “(well) informed opinion”. For my part, I strongly believe that the process of formulating a “well informed opinion” precludes “censorship”. Furthermore, it precludes accepting “lies” and since I see very little difference between “lying” and “lying, by omission”, I’m back to being strongly opposed to censorship.

I am beginning to see the Wikileaks issues as strong polarizing forces that are pitting the “(only) need to know” advocates against the advocates of a TransparentSociety. For me, the RightsEntitlementsPowersAndPrivileges? of a free society are of paramount importance! I will always oppose the erosion of fundamental rights and advocate in favour of their universal recognition.

For the record, I read much of the fundamental documentation underlying the foundation of the United States of America as a Republic. When I compare the ideals of their “founding fathers” to “current events” I can’t help but become discouraged. Even worse, the obvious “right”(ness) of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights, passed in 1948 becomes even more depressing in the light of current events.

It’s relatively easy to see how similar historical patterns have ended in “revolution”. Perhaps its time, once again. Hopefully, the next time, it will at least be “bloodless”, using the power of information instead of the “Might is right” precedents that lead to the Magna Carta.

After all, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” and I know the internet is even stronger!


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