Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Definition Changing for People's Privacy

This is one of those moments of "clarity". When I say "clarity" I suppose the better word is one of those "honesty slip ups" by this government. I'm referring to the recent testimony, covered here by the Associated Press, of Donald Kerr before a Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on his nomination to become Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

Here's the scary, or uh, honest part of his testimony. In referring to privacy, he said, basically, its time to change our collective definition of the word itself!

Before I post some clips from the article, watch this clip of Jack Cafferty on CNN, perfectly framing the issue. As in, "why change something (privacy) that's worked so well for over 200 years in this country?"

From the article:

As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy. Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.


"Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that...Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety," Kerr said. "I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity, but (also) what safeguards we want in place to be sure that giving that doesn't empty our bank account or do something equally bad elsewhere."


"Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms," Opsahl (a senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation) said. "The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together."

Opsahl also said Kerr ignores the distinction between sacrificing protection from an intrusive government and voluntarily disclosing information in exchange for a service.

"There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties," he said. "We shouldn't have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy....It's just another 'trust us, we're the government,'" he said.

1 comment:

gs said...

Kerr's speech is here.

Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address is here.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.