A reader writes, "SF author Peter Watts writes about the ever-encroaching assault on our privacy and how relocating their arguments from the Internet to meatspace illustrates how ridiculous they are, and reasons to be cheerful because of the governments of the 'free world"s determination to eliminate the last shreds of our privacy."
Which leads to a simple metric I use to assess the claims put forth by wannabe surveillers: simply relocate the argument from cyber- to meatspace, and see how it holds up. For example, Leslie Caldwell's forebodings about online "zones of lawlessness" would be rendered thusly:
Caldwell also raised fresh alarms about curtains on windows and locks on bathroom doors, both of which officials say make it easier for criminals to hide their activity. "Bathroom doors obviously were created with good intentions, but are a huge problem for law enforcement. There are a lot of windowless basements and bathrooms where you can do anything from purchase heroin to buy guns to hire somebody to kill somebody"
If you remain comfortable with such arguments even when brought down to earth— well, enjoy the Panopticon. I know a few SF writers whose work you might like.
And yet, oddly, I take heart from these things.
I take heart from the fact that the the Free World is trying to curtail freedom at every turn. I take heart from the endless attempts of the UK, the US, and Canada to pry into our private lives and put webcams in our toilets (because you never know when someone might try to avoid prosecution by flushing a bag of coke down the john, you know). I take heart from PRISM and the Snooper's Charter and Bill-C-whatever-number-they're-up-to-this-week— because they put the lie to those stories in Wired and the Daily Mail and the New York Times, they put the lie to all those journos and pundits who would tell us that privacy is dead. It gives me hope.
Because if privacy really was dead, why would so many be trying so hard to kill it?
The Slippery Step-Function: Or, Reasons to be Cheerful. [Peter Watts]
(Image: Black curtain, Scott Rubin, CC-BY)