Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


All Non-Trivial Privacy Fears Come True

big-brother-award.jpgA few months back, I said “Ironically, privacy advocates warned that the number would become a de facto national ID, and their concerns were belittled, then proven right, setting a pattern that still goes on today.” In thinking about Alec Jeffrey’s come-to-Jesus moment, I realized that we can state that another way: All non-trivial privacy fears come true.

There are no reasoned and thought through warnings of invasions of privacy which have not come to pass. They don’t always come true in precisely the form which people anticipate, but that makes them no less true or prescient. I’d thought that Orwell’s viewscreens in homes haven’t quite come true, but the police chiefs of Chicago and Houston are hard at work on fixing that. (Search on mandatory cameras in homes.)

I’m excluding random drunken rants, or paranoia about orbital mind-control lasers. By non-trivial, I mean though-through discussions of how new technology will, at best, creep past its stated mission. More likely, it will bound past it as we make systems which are more flexible, better interconnected, and cheaper.

(There’s a physicist who asserted that all non-trivial theorems are true, but I can’t recall his name.)

6 comments on "All Non-Trivial Privacy Fears Come True"

  • David Brodbeck says:

    I get what you’re trying to say, but I can’t help but be reminded of the wag who said, “All generalizations are false.”

  • Kat says:

    Whose Big Brother statue is that?

  • Doc says:

    you’re thinking of Gödel…

  • Ian Rae says:

    Isn’t that somewhat tautological? A fear of something trivial is something you shouldn’t rationally be afraid of therefore a fear founded not founded in truth. I’m going to go swallow my tail now.

  • Adam says:

    Ian–I don’t think it is. That the trivial fears don’t come true doesn’t have implications on the non-trivial ones. If we could say “only non-trivial” or “no non-trivial” that would be interesting. But what’s interesting to me is that all of the major ones do seem to come to pass.

  • Dan Riley says:

    You may be thinking of Max Tegmark — his “theory of everything” is that ” all structures that exist mathematically exist also physically”

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