Greg Byshenk's web site

Welcome to
Monday, October 05 2015 @ 07:21 AM PDT

The web and privacy

I know very few of the details about the affair regarding Chief Judge Kozinski and the web pages, but I have to agree with Robert Cooper at Screming Penguin that "Lessig is just wrong..." in his comments On privacy in the cyberage.

Part of the confusion, as I see it, is that too many people are getting hung up on the issue of technology. I think Lessig is correct to say that "[p]rivacy is not determined by technology". But this matter has very little to do with "technology", except perhaps for the fact that some people don't understand the "technology" and its implications.

As I see this matter, the problem arises due to a conflation in many people's minds of 'obscure' and 'private', though these are not at all equivalent. To be sure, in practice, something that is sufficiently obscure is almost the same as being private. If I publish a web page that no one ever reads, then the practical distinction doesn't exist, as my page, never being read by anyone, might as well be private. But in principle the two concepts are entirely different; if I publish in an obscure location, I may not expect to find a large audience, but if I publish something, no matter how obscure such publication might be, then I cannot reasonably assert any claim to privacy regarding what has been published.

Further, placing something on the web is publishing it. In many cases, such may not be publishing widely, and the publication may remain obscure and little-read, but it is nonetheless publishing. At least unless steps are taken to retain the priveleged nature of the information -- something akin to distributing a memorandum labelled "company confidential".

And this matter has nothing specifically to do with the Internet or the web. The same sort of thing has occurred before there was an Internet, when things written in some obscure publication came back to haunt their authors when they became known to a much wider audience in a different context. The Internet and search engines may make it easier for published information to leap from obscurity to notoriety, but the principle is no different.

That principle is that something that one has published is no longer 'private', no matter how obscure the publication might have been. Of course, one may retain various other rights regarding reproduction and so on, but one cannot reasonably be said to retain a right to, or expectation of, privacy regarding information that one has published.


Trackback URL for this entry:

No trackback comments for this entry.
The web and privacy | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
The web and privacy
Authored by: Anonymous onTuesday, September 02 2008 @ 12:26 AM PDT
If a visitor comes accross 'strange' data, unless it is something criminal (in which case it should be reported to the authorities), a short e-mail to the website owner informing him that the data is accessible, saves lots of bandwidth. If people start to have such a decency, there will be a lot less Lessing's in the world.

Majikthise appears as an intelligent lady, I am wondering why she bothered typing a response.

One would say that these stories aren't about privacy, but about decency that we seem to have forgotten. It was much harder to find someones porn mag 20 years ago (as it wasn't in /images directory) and thus there was less crap like this written. If one found, it was either left alone or the owner was politely informed about it. Not in all the cases but more often than today, I think (no hard data on this one, I had a good hiding places myself).

Anyway, 90% of the Internet is people trying to prove someone else's stupidity. It was fun in the beginning (knowing that stupidity exists), now, it is boring the hell out of me.
  • gjhCgSKTND - Authored by: Bradley on Saturday, August 08 2015 @ 01:43 PM PDT
The web and privacy
Authored by: Anonymous onSunday, March 01 2015 @ 12:08 PM PST
The main purpose of providing live chat facility is to guide all our valued customers and newbies quite nicely. Students can find all kind of educational help and guideline from our technical staff and online experts team. Check smart custom writing services and share your experience about that because your positive information and comments can help us to improve that process.
The web and privacy
Authored by: Anonymous onThursday, March 26 2015 @ 02:57 PM PDT
We respect the women because they deserve for that and education only in this world and finalize way to get success in our hand and get here custom essay writing services with affordable price.
The web and privacy
Authored by: Anonymous onMonday, April 27 2015 @ 05:32 AM PDT
Web surfing privacy: No such animals. You do not have any web privately and your anonymity on the Internet or have any real privacy should not be assumed. buy online essays
The web and privacy
Authored by: Anonymous onTuesday, April 28 2015 @ 02:36 AM PDT
It has betide a praxis for me to peek for scam these lifetimes. Starting external, I would prove myself that I would just bargain digit again composition besides adjacent rhythm I would do it myself. Well, I suspect I am tranquil waiting for adjacent day to befall.