TUCoPS :: Privacy :: priv_101.txt

Privacy Digest 1.01 5/28/92

PRIVACY Forum Digest -- Thursday, 28 May 1992 -- Volume 1, Number 1

Moderated by Lauren Weinstein, Vortex Technology, Topanga, CA, U.S.A.

          	    ===== PRIVACY FORUM =====


Greetings from the moderator (Lauren Weinstein; lauren@cv.vortex.com)

The PRIVACY Forum is a moderated digest for the discussion and analysis of
issues relating to the general topic of privacy (both personal and
collective) in the "information age" of the 1990's and beyond.  The
moderator will choose submissions for inclusion based on their relevance and
content.  Submissions will not be routinely acknowledged.

ALL submissions should be addressed to "privacy@cv.vortex.com" and must have
MEANINGFUL "Subject:" lines.  Subscriptions are by an automatic "listserv"
system; for subscription information, please send a message consisting of
the word "help" (quotes not included) in the BODY of a message to:
"privacy-request@cv.vortex.com".  Mailing list problems should be reported
to "list-maint@cv.vortex.com".  Mechanisms for obtaining back issues will be
announced when available.  All submissions included in this digest represent
the views of the individual authors and all submissions will be considered
to be distributable without limitations. 

For information regarding the availability of this digest via FAX, please
send an inquiry to digest-fax@cv.vortex.com.



	... "Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running 
	YOU can do, to keep in the same place.  If you want
	to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice 
	as fast as that!"

		 	 From "Through the Looking Glass"
		      		by Lewis Carroll


Greetings!  Welcome to the first issue of the PRIVACY Forum digest!

To suggest that we live in interesting times would be an understatement to
say the very least.  Technological change and innovation are rapidly calling
into question many of the most fundamental tenets of civilization, with
consequences beyond the predictive capabilities of even my nearby 
Magic 8-Ball.

In particular, advances in computer and telecommunications technologies make
possible a wide range of capabilities and services which can be of immense
value to those persons and groups empowered to use them.  As the millennium
approaches its close, one of the most valuable resources isn't precious
stones or gold--rather it is *information*.  Information--its collection,
distribution, exchange, and use--are fundamental to virtually all societies
and cultures in various manners. 

The interplay between information and privacy is both intense and complex.
By living within society, we give up aspects of our privacy in certain
ways.  Most people do so willingly to some extent.  Most of us demand access
to the conveniences of instant credit, even if this necessitates credit
databases and the inevitable errors that are spread through such systems.
We want access to our bank accounts through ATM and electronic funds
transfer systems.  We don't really mind having our supermarket purchases
scanned in complete detail if it will help get us through the damned queue

The fact that we can't control the details of these operations is rarely
thought about by most people, unless something goes wrong.  If your bank or
credit card company simply uses social security numbers or zip codes as the
"security code" for telephone transactions, and refuses to do otherwise,
it leaves you little choice.  You either go along or take your business
elsewhere, probably to another organization with similarly defined
"security" measures.  If you complain you'll probably be told that "they
haven't had any significant numbers of complaints about the system before,"
regardless of how many complaints have actually been logged.  The fear of
confusing customers through what are deemed to be "complex" security codes
results in simplistic and often inadequate systems.

Some of the problems are of our own choice, to a certain degree.  But there
are other aspects of privacy over which we as individuals have no control,
and which affect us regardless of our personal preferences.  A variety of
these relate to the needs of various government entities.  Others are the
result of the needs or desires of business operations.  In many cases, these
needs on the part of both government and business are completely legitimate
and reasonable.  In other cases, they're questionable.  And in still others,
sadly, they may potentially be dangerous.

Much depends on point of view.  Different entities have differing concepts
of what is and isn't important, and regarding how much intrusion on privacy
is warranted in any given case.  But who is to really decide what is
reasonable when it comes to intrusions into privacy?  In the U.S., while the
Bill of Rights provides a variety of protections, there is no explicit
"right to privacy."  What protections we have are largely the result of
judicial interpretations and legislative actions, both of which can be
constantly subject to change as the political winds blow.

Other parts of the world have their own problems as well.  Some countries
have moved more swiftly than the U.S. to address privacy issues.  In others,
disturbing trends are emerging which could have significant negative impacts
on personal privacy.  

Whenever there is an encroachment on personal privacy, there is almost
inevitably some benefit (either for the individual or society at large)
touted as a balance--and sometimes these benefits are indeed quite real.
But to get these benefits or meet various requirements, we give up little
chunks of privacy, a piece at a time, and it's easy not to notice the total
effect until a rather large gap has been created.  Closing that gap after
the fact can be difficult; in some cases it may be impossible.

Many of the kinds of privacy concerns mentioned above have been accentuated
by technology.  Computer networks, databases, telecommunications systems,
and a myriad of other technological aspects have combined to result in what
is clearly a dramatic increase in the number of privacy concerns facing all
of us.  Like Alice in the Looking Glass world, it seems that we must work
harder and harder just to maintain the level of personal privacy we have come
to expect, much less gain back any that might have been already lost.

My hope is that PRIVACY Forum will be of some help.  It is here to
discuss all aspects of privacy and related areas.  It will hopefully
offer a diversity of viewpoints.  I hope to see discussions not only
regarding concerns about privacy encroachments, but also discussion of the
reasons why in some cases limits to privacy may be necessary in the
furtherance of valid societal goals, and how conflicts between
privacy and limitations on privacy might be properly resolved.

This is a global digest, and the concerns of the PRIVACY Forum are
international in scope.  Hopefully we'll see submissions from around the
world, providing a rich environment for discussion.

The PRIVACY Forum is now open.


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