Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Toss off on House

"Privacy is a relatively new phenomena." (paraphrasing),

from an interesting episode of House about blogging, secrets, community and privacy... I have to think more about the idea of privacy and community and if we have just lost the balance.

In the script someone points out that many people who leave small towns don't want everyone knowing their business, but they give up a support system as they gain anonymity. I'm about to lose some privacy for the sake of building more community, so this is all extremely relative for me right now. Of course I wanted a brief history of privacy, and found it in this article on Wikipedia.

Apparently Brandeis* (Supreme Court Justice) published the first paper on the topic in 1890 in the Harvard Law Review, in response to the widening use of photography and improvements in the printing press. So it truly isn't a very old idea. However the article also points out that the recent advent of so many technologies, where data is stored on private individuals, and often utilized for profit by businesses, has focused concerns about abuse and infringement of rights to basic privacy.

In Europe, in stark contrast to our own laws, data about consumers is owned by each person, not any company who finds or collects it. Therefore the company can't profit from the info, without the consent of the individual. We've had many obstacles to similarly protecting our own privacy, with enormous resistance from businesses. Unfortunately as I've note here before, our government doesn't have a very good track record for protecting us, even from itself.

*An aside, Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the US Supreme Court and was considered brilliant. The above-referenced article was published while he was in law school, and he earned the highest grades ever awarded while there. I've always wanted to read a biography on him, and may even own one. This quote reminded me why:
“Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . ." Justice William O. Douglas

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