This is a question that has been bothering me recently:

How do you balance a desire for freedom of information against a desire for privacy?

It is generally accepted that a corporation such as doubleclick tracking you across websites is an invasion of your privacy. The specifications of a computer device or a piece of software are considered by the owner to be private, while many information freedom advocates would like all software to be open and freely available or all specifications accessible. Among everythingians, is freedom of information as equally important as privacy?

Is this hypocrisy?

Why does a group of people (i.e. a corporation) have less of a right to privacy than an individual?

This train of thought is confusing me; I'd be really grateful if some everythingians would add what they think. I'm still trying to get my head around this.

I read a very interesting article addressing these issues a while back, can't recall who wrote it. The general idea was that in the times before the development of quick communication and speedy transportation, people actually enjoyed less privacy. Everyone in your village knew more-or-less how much you earned, who you were seeing, etc.
The problem, according to the writer, is caused not by people being able to access information about each other, but by people not being able to do this equally.
DoubleClick can check out on you, and so can the CIA - if I could too, so says the writer, everything would be fine.

I, for one, say to that: pull the other one, sahib, this one has bells on it.

dizzy: I think your problem is that you are trying to distill an absolute out of what is really a complex dynamic. Privacy isn't a "thing", it doesn't exist as such. Privacy isn't even the amount of information about yourself you keep to yourself versus the amount which is known to others (be it the public or your social circle).

Privacy is entirely self-defined - something that would be private to one person wouldn't be private to another. In the case of corporations, the definition of privacy is what they can get away with not telling their consumers or the government. Since for commercial operations, the amount of information they can keep private usually translates into profit, there is an argument to be made for the redistribution of wealth through enforced disclosure on their part.

Personally, I'm not an advocate of this system, I think that if someone has a good idea and chooses to keep it to themselves, they should be allowed to do so, regardless of the fact that open source software is a noble contribution to the advancement of computer science. Still, I'd rather see open source medical research - a bit more pertinent to the lives of the masses, if you ask me.

As for a company that invades peoples privacy without authorisation in order to make a profit, I don't see an ethical problem there - taking anything without permission is theft, including one's personal details. They should be stopped not because of privacy issues, but because they're thieves.

Most respectfully, I believe that dizzy has posed the question incorrectly. I suggest that it would more correctly reflect the way things are, especially in the United States, to say,
Why does a human person have less right to privacy, and less access to information, than a corporate person--a corporation?

In the battles over the internet, which are only extensions of battles outside of cyberspace, we see the struggle of ebusiness over the information superhighway. We see copyright and patent being used to the benefit of corporations, not for people.

If there is a constitutional right to political speech, for those that can afford it; if there is a constitutional right to business for business, and not to be prevented from carrying out business by business--as internationally codified in free trade agreements--then what TheLady describes as theft, may not be!

What we are permitted to have as a personal space, an area of privacy around ourselves, is only what the powers that be permit. If it makes them money not to permit it, or only to permit it with payment, say a license to privacy, that's the way it will be.

Look at the battles over intellectual property. What was once thought to be a balance between the interest of the individual creator to receive the just reward for his or her creation, and the interest of the individual human person--member of the public--to have free use of the work to enjoy, to build upon and contribute to the commonweal, is now out of kilter.

And it is no longer a balance between human persons, but between the corporate person, the company, and the individual human person.

Without a right to privacy, we cannot be, and become the persons we are destined. It is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life.

I fear that all too soon, the rights that were envisioned to inhere in human persons, will be vested in corporations. When that is fixed, if ever, then the correct balance between freedom of information, more often thought of as intellectual property, and not personal information, and personal privacy, will right itself.

see also Blues and Copyright, The Threat to the Internet is Not the Government,The INTERNET is Liberal -- O, and so is Everything

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