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Weinberger on Privacy

David Weinberger, author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, has written a typically thoughtful and thought-provoking piece about privacy in the digital age:

Back before the information age, privacy had a fairly well-defined set of applications. It covered what authorities could ask about you, and acts you wouldn’t feel comfortable performing in the middle of a skating rink. But now it applies to wherever there’s information. And nowadays, everything is information.

Although a lot of David’s examples deal with online merchants, I believe much of this applies to government information as well. One way it does is summed up in David’s quote of Brad Templeton’s law : "If you make something easy to do, it will be done more often."

And more:

The easier it is to give somebody ID information, the more often it will be done. And the easier it is to give ID information, the more palatable it is to ask for, or demand it.

If we agree to systems that only allow us to get "authentic" government information from government-controlled web servers, it will be easy for government to ask for and even demand personal information — and easier for users to give that information. And once the government has that information, the same principle applies to government’s use of our personal information. That situation is one that we do not want to encourage or facilitate, regardless of current policies and principles of existing government agencies.


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