The Transparent Society
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The Transparent Society
The Transparent Society
Privacy and Accountability in an age of increasing surveillance
Curated by DBrin
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Brave Citizenship beats a Scorched Earth Policy

Brave Citizenship beats a Scorched Earth Policy | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it
Most of us in the west were raised with legends, myths and movies that taught Suspicion of Authority (SoA).  Thanks to the great science fiction author, George Orwell, we share a compelling metaphor -- Big Brother -- propelling our fears about a future that may be dominated by tyrants.
Whether they emerge from Big Government or a corporate oligarchy or the traditional feudalism of inherited wealth, it is the end result most of us dread… a return to the brutal, pyramid-shaped social order that dominated 99% of human societies -- only now empowered by fantastic powers of technological surveillance and enforcement.
Finding ways to escape that fate - and instead preserve this narrow, fragile renaissance of freedom - is the common goal of activists across the spectrum. Though we are hobbled in this effort by the "spectrum" itself, whose artificial divides make us deride potential allies, proclaiming simplistic, spasmodic prescriptions.
Nowhere is this sad reflex more prevalent than in the lobotomized modern debate over how to handle information.
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One Court Decision Against the NSA -- Will anything result?

One Court Decision Against the NSA -- Will anything result? | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

It seems unlikely that such rulings, or even restricting legislation, will provide the slightest confidence that such vastly encompassing endeavors in Big Data will actually stop.  Indeed, given Moore's Law and the number of elite centers of power that want to look at it all, the only plausible outcome of limits imposed on NSA will be to drive the banned practices underground....Indeed, the one thing that would change all this and make such bans enforceable, is the one thing that would make such bans redundant and unnecessary -- transparency-supervision or "sousveillance," shining citizen light upon the mighty. 

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The Ongoing Privacy Problem: Other Voices

The Ongoing Privacy Problem: Other Voices | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

"Our information" is also a delusion that will fray and unravel with time, leaving us with what is practical, what matters… how to maintain control NOT over what others know about us, but what they can DO to us.In order to accomplish that, we must know as much about the mighty as they know about us.
In The Transparent Society I discuss the alternative we seldom see talked-about, even though it is precisely the prescription that got us our current renaissance of freedom and empowered citizenship.  Sousveillance. Standing up in the light while demanding -- along with hundreds of millions of fellow citizens -- the power to watch the watchmen. Embracing the power to look-back and helping our neighbors to do it, as well.

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Transparency - is it so hard to understand?

Transparency - is it so hard to understand? | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

As in The Transparent Society, my emphasis has been upon "sousveillance" or empowering citizens to look back at every sort of power or elite, from government and commercial to criminal, foreign, technological or oligarchic.  This has been, in fact, the very reflex that brought us to this festival of freedom and creativity-generated wealth.  Yet, it seems difficult to get people to parse HOW this is best achieved.  The reflex to seek power parity by blinding others -- by limiting what elites can see or by cowering or encrypting or hiding from them -- is so profoundly wrong-headed, yet it fills the punditsphere as handwringing commentators demand that government powers of surveillance be curbed… without ever explaining how this can be done, let alone showing one example from history when elites actually let themselves be blinded.

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Hidden Money Hoards Revealed...and Other Transparency News

Hidden Money Hoards Revealed...and Other Transparency News | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

You may have heard that a consortium of journalists, working on a cache of 2.5 million recently spilled files, has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts, exposing hidden dealings of politicians, con men and mega-rich the world over. If preliminary reports prove to be true, it would be a revelation ten times larger than last year's WikiLeaks Affair and vastly more important. Indeed, it could portend the start of a worldwide radical movement for transparency that I forecast (including - for dramatic effect - a world war on Switzerland) in my 1989 novel Earth.   

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David Brin: THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY

David Brin: THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

David Brin is worried, but not just about privacy. He fears that society will overreact to these technologies by restricting the flow of information, frantically enforcing a reign of secrecy. Such measures, he warns, won’t really preserve our privacy. Governments, the wealthy, criminals, and the techno-elite will still find ways to watch us. But we’ll have fewer ways to watch them. We’ll lose the key to a free society: accountability.The Transparent Society is a call for “reciprocal transparency.”

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Worlds of transparency, security, privacy, and openness

Worlds of transparency, security, privacy, and openness | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Our society has one great knack above all others -- one that no other ever managed -- that of holding the mighty accountable. Although elites of all kinds still have many advantages over commonfolk, never before have citizens been so empowered. And history shows that this didn't happen byblinding the mighty -- a futile endeavor that has never worked. It happened by insisting that everybody get to see. By citizens demanding the power to know.

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Considering Copyright

Considering Copyright | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

To be clear, I pay college bills for my kids out of my copyrights and patents. Nevertheless, I am philosophically willing to posit that people should not and cannot inherently "own" ideas or knowledge in any fundamental way, even if they created it in the first place. They have interests, some rights. But those are more constrained.

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A Modest Proposal: Neighborhood Watch Powered by Google Glass

A Modest Proposal: Neighborhood Watch Powered by Google Glass | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Eyeglass cameras “would create a global village of reciprocal accountability with many benefits, like preserving freedom and accountability. But that there would be costs.”

Neighborhood watches armed with Glass could help deter crime, but there could be many unforeseen consequences. The events after the video revealing police brutality against Rodney King show just how powerful camera footage can be. Some will find their gaze oppressive. Big Brother may be watching...but you can watch the watchers as well..

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World Cyberwar and the Inevitability of Radical Transparency

World Cyberwar and the Inevitability of Radical Transparency | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Are we heading into an era when light will shine upon everyone, even the mighty? Will the benefits of such an age outweigh the inevitable costs?

Recent events that powerfully illustrate these trade-offs range from the WikiLeaks Affair—publishing a quarter million documents purloined from the United States government—to the tech-empowered Arab Spring that followed to the battle being waged on our own streets between law enforcement agencies and citizens who record their activities.

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Freedom of the Press Concerns Us All

Freedom of the Press Concerns Us All | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Brin's Transparent Society stood out from the mass of now forgotten predictions about the internet because he understood that technology had made old levels of privacy impossible: "The djinn cannot be crammed back into the bottle. No matter how many laws are passed, it will prove quite impossible to legislate away the new tools and techniques." The best encryption systems in the world are of no use if the state or another public, private or criminal organisation can place a miniature camera behind you while you type, or insert a program into your system to monitor your key strokes. Instead of trying to protect the unprotectable, Brin called for political change to match changes in technology. He envisaged possible responses by imagining how two cities might look in 2018.

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I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours

I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Our world, our cities, even the countryside is about to be filled with cameras. There is not a single thing any of us can do to prevent it. Every year, the size of video pickups gets smaller by 30 to 40 percent. The U.S. Army is developing little flying drones that are already smaller than your hand, and in laboratories they're working on fingertip-size flying cameras. We will live in a society in which the average person is under view, at least out-of-doors. The only choice we have is who will control the cameras. If we ban them, if we outlaw them, if we try to protect our privacy through secrecy, all we'll manage to do is restrict their use to a secret elite.

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The Path to Positive Sousveillance

The Path to Positive Sousveillance | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Asimov’s government official assumes that “everyone sees everyone else” is a nightmare scenario. But would it be, really? What if some version of Asimov’s vision came true, and everyone could watch everyone else all the time? This potentiality has been labeled “sousveillance” – and it may seem like a scary idea, since we’re used to cultures and psychological habits predicated on greater levels of privacy. But this is exactly the future projected by a handful of savvy pundits, such as computer scientist Steve Mann and science fiction writer David Brin.

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Fighting Fire with Fire: Why Transparency will save Privacy

Fighting Fire with Fire: Why Transparency will save Privacy | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Surveillance can’t be stopped; nothing will halt the flood of vision in our world. But instead of isolating ourselves and trying to seal off our secrets we should expose them, and the snoopers surrounding us. For the illusory fantasy of absolute privacy has come to an end.

 

Information leaks! It copies itself with the ease and speed of electrons. If the NSA and FBI routinely crack open, should you depend upon an even more illusory fantasy of secrecy?

 We will remain more adaptable and fiercely sovereign citizens, if we are empowered with light.
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A Transparency Tsunami!

A Transparency Tsunami! | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working on the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS) allowing authorities to identify individuals by their faces -- from images collected by street cams, driver’s license photos, mug shots or other sources. Yet there is little or no legal oversight of such technologies.  Oversight and "under-sight" or sousveillance is absolutely essential lest this lead to Big Brother!

 

As of now, 37 states have enabled facial-recognition software to search driver’s license photos, yet only 11 have protections in place to limit access to such data by the authorities, or install methods of oversight as to how such data is used.

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If You Can’t Hide From Big Brother, Adapt

If You Can’t Hide From Big Brother, Adapt | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Much of today’s hand-wringing focuses rightfully on potential abuse of power. Both ends of the hoary political spectrum disagree over whether to most fear government or a rising corporate oligarchy, but all paladins of liberty share one dread: that despots will be tech-empowered by universal surveillance.

 

Among the foes who would do us grievous harm — from terrorists to hostile states to criminal gangs — can you name one that’s not fatally allergic to light? In contrast, modern democracies find light occasionally irksome, generally bracing and mostly healthy. That difference is the paramount strategic consideration of the 21st century.

 

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The Transparent Society Revisited

The Transparent Society Revisited | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Recent controversy over NSA revelations sent me reaching to my bookshelf for David Brin's 1998 work, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Re-reading it made me realize that Brin articulated more than just an unusual approach for addressing the issue of surveillance technology. He offers a perspective on the relationship of citizens and the state which challenges conventional libertarian thinking. 

In brief, Brin sees liberty as flourishing not when the state is weak, but when the state is accountable. Accountability in turn requires that government processes must be open, and that citizens must be vigilant and effective in monitoring and challenging the actions of public officials.

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Questions I am frequently asked about… Transparency, Privacy & the Information Age

Questions I am frequently asked about… Transparency, Privacy & the Information Age | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

As far as privacy itself is concerned, I have a simple answer to that. (It makes up chapter 4 of The Transparent Society.) Human beings want it. We naturally are built to want some privacy. Moreover, if we remain a free and knowing people, then sovereign citizens will demand a little privacy, though we’ll find that we must redefine the term for changing times. 
The question really boils down to: Will tomorrow’s citizens be free and knowing? Will new technologies empower us to exert reciprocal accountability, even upon the mighty? It may seem ironic, but for privacy and freedom to survive, we’ll need a civilization that is mostly open and transparent, so that each of us may catch the would-be voyeurs and Big Brothers.  So that most of us know most of what’s going on, most of the time.

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The Man Who Predicted Google Glass Forecasts The Near Future

The Man Who Predicted Google Glass Forecasts The Near Future | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Every generation has been challenged by new powers of vision, memory, perspective, attention and reach," says Brin. He cites inventions as old as Gutenberg's printing press for evidence. "The press was originally used for pamphleteering," he reminds us, which in the short term, made it seem like it was degrading the public discourse. And as Time recently reminded us, Kodak cameras, after first being introduced in the late 1800s, were banned from beaches and feared by those who valued privacy. In recent decades, Google's core product, the search engine, has also been subject to considerable consternation. (Remember The Atlantic cover story, 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?')

"Every time this [technological change] happens, grouches proclaimed that humans were never meant to do this, that we never evolved to or weren't created to handle that kind of information flow. They were always right in the short term. The transcendentalists who would claim this would make us bigger, better and wiser were always wrong in the short term."

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Transparency: Secrecy vs. Privacy, Part 1

How do we keep privacy and empower citizens when cameras become smaller and proliferate daily? On the tenth anniversary of the release of “The Transparent Society,” David Brin discusses issues of transparency and accountability in an age of increasing surveillance. Brin claims, “If we’re free and powerful as citizens, privacy is something we’ll be able to negotiate among ourselves.” The key is reciprocal accountability…that we have the power to watch the watchers. Continue to Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oz2CZgrm8k

 

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Is Law Enforcement Going Dark? Dilbert’s Dilemma and other Transparency Crises

Is Law Enforcement Going Dark? Dilbert’s Dilemma and other Transparency Crises | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Our protective agencies can be expected to continue pressing for better surveillance methods, both in pursuit of a professional ability to do their jobs and as a natural outcome of human psychology. They will never give up because we monkeys need to see and powerful ones won't be denied. If forbidden, they will simply peer at us surreptitiously. Robert Heinlein said: "Privacy laws make the spy bugs smaller."

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In Defense of a Transparent Society

In Defense of a Transparent Society | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

For we already live in the openness experiment, and have for two hundred years. It is called the Enlightenment -- with "light" both a core word and a key concept in our turn away from 4,000 years of feudalism. All of the great enlightenment arenas -- markets, science and democracy -- flourish in direct proportion to how much their players (consumers, scientists and voters) know, in order to make good decisions. To whatever extent these arenas get clogged by secrecy, they fail.

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Three cheers for the Surveillance Society!

Three cheers for the Surveillance Society! | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

We face tides of technology-driven transformation that seem bound only to accelerate. Waves of innovation may liberate human civilization, or disrupt it, more than anything since glass lenses and movable type. Critical decisions during the next few years — about research, investment, law and lifestyle — may determine what kind of civilization our children inherit. Especially problematic are many information-related technologies that loom on the near horizon — technologies that may foster tyranny, or else empower citizenship in a true global village.

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The Unmasked Society

The Unmasked Society | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

Try this near-future scenario on for size: a security camera on every lamppost, watching over all of society, whether running traffic lights, scratching rear ends or cheating on spouses, along with a swarm of tiny, undetectable robot drones flitting through the air, peeking over walls and into darkened windows with enhanced infrared vision.

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Security by Obscurity: People Who Don't "Get" Transparency or Positive Sum Games

Security by Obscurity: People Who Don't "Get" Transparency or Positive Sum Games | The Transparent Society | Scoop.it

A recent research paper resurrects the idea of "security by obscurity." A notion I've been fighting for decades. (e.g. inThe Transparent Society: Will Technology force us to choose between privacy and freedom?).

 The basic idea is that you will better thrive by hiding information from your foes/competitors/rivals, even if this accelerates an arms race of obscurity and spying, creating a secular trend toward ever-reduced transparency.

Now, I want to talk about a special case in which my objection - still strong in principle - is softened by pragmatic arguments.

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