Redefining privacy

Let’s redefine Privacy, shall we?

There’s a lot of issue with Privacy. I already wrote about it some time ago, but I think that in fact the current definition of Privacy is an issue. For starters, no one is able to provide me with a definition of privacy.

Is Privacy a secret?

The definition I encounter the most can be summed up a bit like this, it’s everything that is "none of your concern". It’s the version of Privacy I used in my previous post and, I think, it’s probably the one that’s defended mostly by people who basically are not discriminated against by system of oppressions (states, but not only).

There’s two main issue with that. First, there’s thing that you cannot "hide", such as your apparent gender, or the color of your skin, and those will submit you to system of oppression – I won’t spend time to expose them, but please feel free to read some useful documentations. Second there’s the fact that secret is used to hide things – that’s the purpose of secret. You want to keep others in the dark about what’s happening. David Cameron just said that his personal investment in Panama are private matters. Conjugal rape and other in-family sexual assault are always hidden under the veil of the "private matters" that should be treated only inside the family.

I mean, clearly, secrecy is a bad thing. Not only for government, but for people in position of power and control over other. I’m not advocating for a full publicity of everything, but for a questioning of is privacy a synonym to secrecy?

Do we really want to hide all of our lives to our society? If we want to redistribute wealth, we need to know about the income of each person. If we want to act upon the discrimination women faces, we need to know about those discrimination, we need to know about who’s identified as a woman and to act upon the people who discriminate them.

If we want a world with a bit more fairness inside, we might need to be able to be a little bit more public about our lives. Society is build on the intersections and interactions we have with each other. The positive ones, and the negatives ones. The society, the cultures we live in, is not – I think – powered by the things we have in common, but by the differences we have and the different experiences we’ve been through.

So, privacy a the thing you keep in the closet is bad – go talk to queers about living in the closet to see why this kind of privacy sucks.

Also, I do not think that the right to privacy – as described by the article 12th of the UNDHR is defined by what we keep secret. This right is defined as protection against arbitrary interference. It doesn’t state that it has to be secret. It protects interferences, meaning, influence, actions, perturbations. Not about knowing about it.

The issue with mass surveillance – and why its so bad – is not because it allow a passive global observer to exist, it is because it create an active global discriminator that will sort people between good citizens and terrorists, based on what data we create. Mass surveillance described as a passive global observer is an issue. The mass surveillance complex is used by power structure to maintain their power over people, by creating and enforcing discrimination. This is clearly a violation of Privacy because it is arbitrary interfering in life of people. But it’s not because they collect the data.

This is one of the thing about mass surveillance, it does not exist in void, it exist as a political tool of social coercion. It'(s not the data collection and gathering that’s the real issue. With the amount of data collected, we could have a real source of interesting data for sociologist to help them describing our society, and gives us clue to change and improve it.

So, no. The fact that a passive global observer exist is not the issue. The issue is that it is a fact an acting and active global discriminatory system. And secrecy is only a way to protect against the passive global observer. It does not enforce privacy. It does not defines privacy. It does not helps you to protect yourself against discrimination.

Is Privacy your identity?

I’m not sure. Identity is a social concept (and a psychological one, it sucks when you use one word for two different things). It’s how you define yourself at some point in time, and how you are recognised and defined by others, based on their cultures and social cues and norms they have.

You decide how you want to define yourself, in regards with the current social cultures you bathe in. You adopt, reject, create or appropriates part of this culture to form your identity and to express to the society who you are, and how you’d like the society to consider you.

Your identity is – at least partly – publicly displayed and used by the society to interact with you. This is where discrimination will take place. If you’re identified as a woman – whether or not you define yourself as one – and the society we live in discriminates women – and we live in such society – then you’ll be discriminated.

Which basically seemed to be a good match for arbitral interfering ad specified earlier. It seems that the elements you use to define yourself, the elements used by other to identify you and to relates to you seems a better candidates for me than the one you keep secret.

What it means is that our privacy, what’s private, is the core of how we see ourselves. It’s not what we want to substract to public scrutiny. It’s how we want to be identified. And our rights to have a privacy is basically our rights to defined however we want – in a social context – without being discriminated for it.

It does not means that if you want to define yourself as a patriarcal asshole you’ll be able to act onto people as you want. It just means that defining yourself as a patriarcal asshole shouldn’t means that you’ll be treated in a specific way. The thing you’ll say, the thing you’ll do are what will bring your trouble, but not your identity.

Basically enforcing privacy is trying to find a way to end discrimination of any kind. It’s not providing tools – secrecy – to create more discrimination. Fighting for privacy is understanding that the world is non-binary, that no identity should be infeoded to another, it’s fighting for sanctioning people for what they do and not what they are.

Yeah, OK, but where’s the cryptography comes into play?

Cryptography is needed because – in a world of oppression – you need to organize yourself to change those. And to organize you need secrecy at least temporary – until you act. It is not a right has protected by any of the article of the UNHRD, but it is mentioned in the preamble:

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Meaning that, if you’re right to Privacy is not respected, then you need to react and fight for it. And for that you need secrecy, you need to hide from the spies and the forces that tries to remove your rights.

Because, in the end, the only rights you have are the one you fight for. And this is where cryptography will helps you. Cryptography will allow you to disobey, to organise dissent, to rebel, to have some time to breathe. But it will not helps you to enforce Privacy and the right to self determination.

And I think we all need to rethink that privacy is not what is secret, but it’s what makes us individuals. It what gives us the right to coexist in the same soci
ety. And this is why we all need to fight for it. Without privacy, there’s only bland human without identity. Without privacy there’s no place for non-mainstream person. Without privacy there’s no way to evolve and progress. Without privacy, there’s no I or You. There’s only us. Forced in an identity we didn’t choose, think, defined, accepted, created.

Those identities are the one created by the global active discriminator to divides us. They are the nationalist ones, they are the Charlie’s one. They’re the one of the dominant classes and we’re stuck with them, without a possibility to exist out of those scheme without being violently confronted.

We should fight for this privacy. For the possibility for anyone to self-determine themselves. And stop believing that we currently have access to it, or that cryptography will suffice.