11
   

Is Privacy necessary to Democracy?

 
 
vikorr
 
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 04:55 pm
So recently I read an article on ‘Browser Fingerprinting’ and started looking into online privacy. And the thought popped into my head:
- “What would happen if our democracies were ever to be overthrown (after all, history shows all governments fall eventually)?; or even
- What would happen if our democracies became corrupt enough that X (corporations, Power groups etc) essentially gained control of the justice system, enough so that there wasn’t recourse for normal people, and ‘controlled’ the population through Y (whether election bribes, propaganda, fear campaigns etc)?

Yes, I know you could argue that is occurring, now, but I do mean a severe form of the above.

And if it got to the stage where they banned any protest against such issues…here, to me, is where online privacy becomes an issue.

It seems to me that the information we give away to the major corporations and government would, in the even that Government ever fell to a dictatorship or extreme corruption – the government is in a position to know everything about anyone who protests against such corruption or dictatorship. It could (sometime in the future) eventuate that protest against a dictatorship would become essentially impossible if they got a hold of Tech Giants (or Tech Giants got a hold of Government), for the below reasons:

Already the major tech corporations (Google, Microsoft etc) tend to know:
- Your name, date of birth, address, and phone number (if you store it in your browser)
- All the phone numbers you store with them (on your phone)
- All your extended and close friends (Facebook etc)
- Extensive details of all your extended and close friends (Facebook/phone/Skype etc)
- Where you frequent / go (GPS on your phone + locations services)
- All the photos you store (One Drive etc)
- All your login sites

Arguably they also have access to:
- All your passwords that you store in Chrome (if you use it like most people)
- All your credit card details that you store in Chrome
But they also track what websites you visit, and what you buy (this of course is done for commercial purposes, serving targeted Ads to people), through things like:
- Google Analytics
- Hundreds of other multi-national Tracking companies
- CDN’s / Content Delivery Networks (passive form of tracking) that large numbers of websites use

If you think not logging in, or cleaning cookies, or hiding behind a VPN is enough to stop the hundreds of tracking companies out there from following you, there is this thing called Browser Fingerprinting. Browser Fingerprinting was first invented for anti-fraud purposes for Banks etc, but which can give highly accurate identification of people through hashes of: Geolocation, Canvas, WebGL, WebRTC, Fonts installed, extensions, Header information, Browser used, OS, ping information, internet speed, system memory, battery level, screen resolution and many other bits of identifying information)

And of Government currently have:
- All your banking details
- All your bank card details (mentioned separately because they can be tied / linked to all your purchases, which include where you physically shop, which can be added to phone GPS movements)
- All your employer details
- All your sources of income (unless you are a crook)
- Has all your online metadata stored through ISP’s
- And if you are the NSA, have all this, plus all your phone calls, all your online activity that they can find, etc

If the Edward Snowden leaks showed us anything, it is that Government is already scooping up vas amount of data about its citizens.

What happens if our governments ever topple (whether it be for WW3, or decline over time as all governments do, or some other world wide distaster pushes countries towards revolution)? What happens if the information we freely give away falls into the hands of people who wish to use it for absolute control?

For this reasons, it strikes me that the lack of online privacy is bad for democracy. Perhaps not right now, but the path we are travelling down in regards to privacy can lead to a very dark path if our governments ever topple to the wrong people.






Note: I haven't explained every term I introduced above, in order to keep this short. Anyone is of course able to look up individual terms of their own accord, and come to their own conclusions.
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Type: Question • Score: 11 • Views: 3,708 • Replies: 159
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maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 06:23 pm
I do not believe that privacy is necessary to democracy. Democracy is not anarchy... it is a system to govern a society and to make sure that its citizens are kept under control for the good of all.

The new tools are actually not that much different than the old tools, but even so our discussion about privacy is not key to a democratic system of government.
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 06:33 pm
@maxdancona,
I think perhaps you misunderstood the context of the question -if our governments are overthrown (for whatever reason), or become corrupt enough that they blatantly take control the population (ie. it is no longer a democracy).... would the current state of privacy going to prevent democracy from returning? Ie. Would the current lack of privacy enable the new, non democratic government, to prevent democracy from ever returning? If yes, then privacy is necessary to the long-term survival of democracy.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 06:41 pm
@vikorr,
I don't think so.

I am not even sure we have substantially less privacy now then we did before. 100 years ago people subscribed to newspapers, bought books, went to union meetings, were members of churches, bought from mail order catalogues. Now there is a greater amount of data... but even so, it is not really as useful as you might think.

Citizens have been surveilled for hundreds of years.


Democracy survived.
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 06:51 pm
@maxdancona,
The question I pose is not about whether it will lead to the overthrow of democracies (which I never claimed), but what occurs with this information that we (mostly) freely hand out if democracy was overthrown or attempted to be overthrown. Ie. is it necessary to the long term survival of democracy when democracy is faced with such a crisis.

Further, in terms of your 'comparison' - major differences between what you are describing and what I am describing are, 100 years ago:
- There was no way of government or tech giants (who didn't exist) knowing all your friends (Facebook, phone contact lists, email contact lists now)
- there was no way of them knowing your movements (GPS on phones do that now), or the places you frequented
- There was no centralised way of collating that information
- there was no way for people to connect all the dots (computers do that now)
- facial recognition did not exist
- mass datacollection capabilities, on the scale of the NSA, with search capabilities, did not exist

- 100 years ago, most things were bought in cash, compared to on card now (this isn't necessarily a big thing, but does provide linkage to the above issues)
- etc from the list.

So trying to pretend it is anywhere near the same (in levels of what is known about your private life 100 years ago as compared to now) is quite ridiculous.


maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 07:47 pm
@vikorr,
In earlier times your friends were the people who lived nearby. Long before there were computers hey would track you by your neighborhood... the Catholics all lived in one area. They had no problem tracking and persecuting Catholics.

What do you mean "facial recognition did not exist". People in the stone age could recognize faces just fine.

If you look at the mass persecutions of the past which happened just fine without electronic computers... I am not convinced that modern technology changes very much.

Good old fashioned torture told them more than could be gleaned from a database, and Iron Maiden will get more out of you than your search history. What can modern computers do that the Spanish Inquisition couldn't?
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:09 pm
@maxdancona,
Max, you continually appear to be ignoring the context of the issue I'm talking about - if democracy was overthrown, this information could easily be used against any dissenters...Do you think, if you dissented to a a dictatorship you lived in, with access to this information, that you, or any person could run a successful overthrow of the dictatorship, and return your country to a democracy?

I don't see how it could be done, if dictators etc had access to this data (I am not including 3rd world dictators where many subjects aren't on such systems). My view is, there is every possibility, that when decomracy eventually falls (as all governments eventually have), there is a very real danger of no one being able to change that, and anyone and everyone who tries, disappearing.

--------------------

Also, you continually downplay the incredibly obvious differences. Have a look at this as just one example of how you are discussing this:

- What do you mean "facial recognition did not exist". People in the stone age could recognize faces just fine. This ignores the fact that CCTV cameras have become much more pervasive, and tying them to facial recognition is becoming much more pervasive. It ignores how this can tie back to centralised servers. It ignores that it can tie into GPS locations services on your phone. It ignores that of millions that may live in a city, an 'enforcement personnel'probably doesn't recognise your face, but facial recognition will. You know these differences. You work in the field, but you downplay the differences....as you have for each and every thing mentioned... and as you have for the whole picture.

- as another example, you talk about previous surveillance systems...while ignoring the incredible efficiency that is coming into existence, and that efficiency that will enable less and less less enforcement personnel to round up more and more dissenters (dissenters in this case, referring to dissenters to dictators etc who have overthrown a democracy)
oralloy
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:25 pm
@vikorr,
vikorr wrote:
The question I pose is not about whether it will lead to the overthrow of democracies (which I never claimed), but what occurs with this information that we (mostly) freely hand out if democracy was overthrown or attempted to be overthrown.

Your thread title was poorly drafted. The thread title does kind of lead to a conclusion that you are talking of democracies being overthrown without privacy.

However I get the concerns that you actually mean to express, which you do express in the body of your posts.

I agree with your concerns, and I'm in favor of safeguards to better protect our privacy so that we will not be at the mercy of tyranny if it ever arises.

I lack the expertise to make suggestions as to what these safeguards should be however.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:26 pm
@vikorr,
My question is this...

What information could be used by a dictator in 2020 that wasn't used ...

In 1966 in the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao in China
In 1937 during the Red Purge in the Soviet Union
In 1800s enforcing the fugitive slave laws.
In the 1700 during Witch Hunts
In the 1470s during the Spanish Inquisition.

In each of these purges the dictatorial power drew up lists, extracted information and made connections.

My question is .. what can computers do that the Spanish Inquisition couldn't do? Computers are just a way to make lists.... priests make lists just fine.



vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:28 pm
@oralloy,
Yep, my title was poorly worded.
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:28 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
what can computers do that the Spanish Inquisition couldn't do?

Computers can closely track the activities of every single person.
vikorr
 
  2  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:30 pm
@maxdancona,
Max, I've already answered the questions you just asked.

You work in AI do you not? If so, then your questions are disingenuous.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:30 pm
@oralloy,
The inquisition could do the same.
oralloy
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:31 pm
@maxdancona,
I disagree. They were limited by their manpower. They couldn't watch everyone at once.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:31 pm
@vikorr,
vikorr wrote:

Max, I've already answered the questions you just asked.

You work in AI do you not?



Yes I do work in AI. Which is why I am skeptical of these claims.

AI is not magic. AI is not even really intelligence (i.e. it is nothing like what happens in a human mind). Most of the claims made about AI are gross exaggerations of what it actually does.

It is just math.
oralloy
 
  0  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:33 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Computers are just a way to make lists.... priests make lists just fine.

Computer lists (properly done) are much much more effective.
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:34 pm
@oralloy,
Max knows this. Just as he knows the uses and possibilities of AI. Apparently he wants to compartmentalise, and ignore how 'just maths' (his term for sophisticated computer programs used to analyse everything and return useful information) can be used.

As a note, I have no issue with the concept of AI itself. I do however object when people try to frame what it can do and the uses to which it can be put as 'just maths'. Yep, it is...and it's hardly the point.
0 Replies
 
oralloy
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:37 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Yes I do work in AI.

Do you think that AI technology can be abused by dictatorships?

If yes, do you think it would be a good idea to try to come up with safeguards that will prevent such abuses?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:37 pm
@oralloy,
oralloy wrote:

maxdancona wrote:
Computers are just a way to make lists.... priests make lists just fine.

Computer lists (properly done) are much much more effective.


More effective how? Stalin killed millions of people in his reign of terror without modern computers. How do you get more "effective" than that?

Computer lists might be faster to compile... and may be more accurate. But who cares?
oralloy
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 19 Oct, 2020 08:39 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
More effective how?

Computers can catch people who might otherwise have gone unnoticed.


maxdancona wrote:
Computer lists might be faster to compile... and may be more accurate. But who cares?

People who are being crushed under the heel of tyranny will probably care.
 

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