Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Sigh. The inevitability of technology rolls into the probably well-intentioned, but lacking desires of a struggling government mentality

ID card database

I want to put together an article explaining why I think that this is a bad idea, but it needs to take into several aspects. One of these is privacy, and I'd like to concentrate on it individually, as I think it is separate to (as well as a major component of) a criticism of ID cards, and government surveillance in general. Then I may get around to taking a look at efficiency of government systems, but I feel this is more the area of "proper" research.

For now, some notes... Privacy seems to have become something that most people are now willing to give up, mostly (imho) because they a). don't realise the ramifications of it, and b). feel that they have nothing to hide. The former is a matter of education - one form of which is highlighting just how privacy affects them, and another being the more direct approach which comes out of when their privacy is actually intruded upon. Note the effect on people when Norwich Union used genetic testing to influence life insurance policies. The latter is probably just a different facet of the same thing - as in, people do not realise what is actually confidential about them - they take it for granted, and this is accentuated when privacy intrusion is sold as a criminal deterrent, moreso in the States than here (which acts as a prime case study as to why people should pay attention).

There is a level of hypocrisy amongst the public here. People say they have nothing to hide, yet are happy to accept whatever forms of "data control" happen to be applied to their information. I suspect that plenty of people would take offence if I started to rifle through their post and their private e-mail, yet they claim they have nothing to hide. They also assume this - access by an outsider for a purpose other than originally intended - as a preposterous idea, but it happens. A lot. There is no reason to assume that it doesn't, or that we should design our systems without this in mind.

WHY do we find privacy important? We need our own thoughtspace. We hate being monitored. Remember being back in school, and having the teacher look over your shoulder whilst you were working, or sitting an exam? The instant fear it brought? Maybe that was just me :) But we act differently when we know we are being individually monitored - indeed, this can be the POINT of monitoring. See the panopticon, Foucault's entire chronologicisation of objectification techniques. We are being made self-conscious to a point where we are no longer free to think by ourselves.

Maybe this is a root cause of why I feel that education, not monitoring is the path we must follow. In our lives, in our government, in ourselves. I would rather a world where each of acts individually, than one in which we are all afraid to think something new.

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