Konstantinos Stylianou on technological determinism and privacy

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May 31, 2011 · 2 comments

Konstantinos Stylianou, a former Fulbright Scholar now working on a PhD in law at Penn Law School, and author of the provocative new essay, “Hasta La Vista Privacy, or How Technology Terminated Privacy,” discusses technological determinism and privacy. Stylianou’s thesis is that the evolution of technology is eliminating privacy; therefore, lawmakers should switch emphasis from regulating the collection of information, which he claims is inevitable, to regulating the use of that information. Stylianou discusses why digital networks specifically make it difficult to keep information private, differences between hard and soft technological determinism, and when he thinks people will realize about their private information what the recording industry has finally realized about digital music.

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  • Icarus

    I disagree with this gentleman’s premise that technology will ultimately kill privacy.  I definitely agree that it can if we are not careful and that the prevailing wind is against it however if we make a conscientious effort we can gain all of the benefits of technology without losing complete control over our privacy.

    Privacy loss on the internet is like alcohol and tobacco use.  It’s not going to get you today or tomorrow, but more likely in 20-50 years.  With this level of uncertainty people are willingly and I would rather say unknowingly accepting the risk of using services that exploit their user data.

    To say that this is inevitable I believe is untrue.  We can tailor our applications for directed release of our data.  It won’t be fool proof but it will be much more guarded than is currently the norm.

    Currently we use intermediaries for storage of our user data for convenience but this is not a strict requirement of the service.  We can offer similar services through distributed means.  Private data is stored locally and information is exchanged and controlled through encryption and the exchange of keys with those that I am interested in.  There are already projects in the works to provide functionality similar to facebook but in a distributed way.

    Services like Google Maps can be anonymised by requesting larger data sets and corrections to location being made on a local level.  Currently this is limited by bandwidth, but once we have solved the hurdles of bandwidth and storage most of the services offered by Google can be performed at a local level.  

    I envision us all running a server in our home (or possibly on our person) that has an always on data connection and transacting information only to those who we are interested in doing so.

    Agreed we may have to pay for our privacy not only in money but in time, but I think counter to the guests arguments that we will get more lax with time, that we will come to appreciate our privacy more.

  • What do you care

    Sure, but I think that the whole point of tech determinism is that
    technology will lead you to do things certain way even if you *can*,
    i.e. you *have the option* to do otherwise. Therefore the fact that you
    can change security and privacy settings or use a similar service does
    not negate the result mandated by tech determinism. It may delay it, but
    it cannot eliminate it. Of course, this is probably only hard
    determinism I am talking about.