Ana Viseu on 13 Feb 2001 00:02:58 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Privacy Anyone?


You are right when pointing out that there is a contradiction --in my 
previous email-- between my first statements on the relationship between 
privacy and net borders and my conclusion. I started off by putting 
together two different concepts--privacy and anonymity--which are related 
but are not synonyms. The ability to create borders has a direct 
relationship to the lack anonymity, which has a strong relationship to 
privacy. However, anonymity does not exhaust the concept of privacy.

This being said, a few comments on your post.

"The reason I wonder about this has to do with the very problem that has 
motivated the debate in this whole thread: Nortel's information-gathering 
software. There is a paradox here: How could any right to privacy be 
instituted and maintained if it were not possible to gather information 
about Nortel and use it to "block" the company from commercializing its 
software and/or services? To be concerned about Nortel is to want to put a 
block on their software, no? But given that a corporation has "rights" in 
the neoliberal order, the same rights as any other actor in the 
marketplace/world, what can justify putting a border around it?"

I think that here we are talking about two different things: secrecy and 
privacy. Nortel's software can be discussed (I am not sure about the 
possibilities of individuals blocking it) because it is not secret. As far 
as I can see this is not directly related to privacy. Their system is only 
a threat to privacy because in its normal functioning it collects lots of 
data about users, who are unaware they are being tracked. Companies can 
argue that they will not use it, sell it or even keep it, but they are in 
fact collecting it, which means that sooner or later this data can be 
transformed into valuable knowledge about individuals and their habits. 
Data collection is the core of our famous information age.

I am also not sure that being concerned about Nortel's software means 
wanting to block it, perhaps all that is necessary is to make some changes 
on the software's code... For example, Nortel could have come up with a 
software that indicates location without giving up identity.

If I understand correctly, you seem to think that "institutional borders" 
are inevitable, and that "personal borders" are desirable. I also think 
that the institutional borders are definetly being pressed for, and this is 
why it is ever more urgent to consider how these borders will work. Think, 
for example, of traditional borders: Most people are used to borders and to 
the necessity of proving one's identity (loosing one's anonymity) that 
comes with it. Showing the passport or ID card when crossing a frontier, or 
when entering a building, etc..,  is nothing new. However, in the 
traditional model, the moment we cross the border, our anonymous condition 
is, in most cases, returned to us.  What happens is that with the 
Internet--and increasingly with other wireless technologies--this is not 
the case. The system is created in such a way that its normal working 
involves an almost continuous collection of data.

On the level of personal borders, I am not sure I fully understand your 

But I am very much in favor of finding a way to block the actions of 
corporations like Nortel which aim at commodifying our privacy, not by 
bordering our actions in any way of course, but by turning them in
the "lifetime value" that can be extracted out of a known, 
monitored,predictable and stimulable consumer.

Isn't this "lifetime value" exactly the idea of privacy as a commodity? The 
only difference is that in this approach the user gains (money?) from its 
loss, and in Nortel's the other the user just loses. For me the bottom line 
is that in both the user loses her/his privacy. There are already 
techniques for creating personal borders which dont involve a loss of 
privacy, for example, the filters that block certain individuals from 
reaching us, the use of nicknames when posting on certain lists, the use of 
privacy enhancing technologies that allow us to browse the web anonymously. 
One may argue if the best solution is to fight back with code, but it seems 
to be the most promising.

Finally, I agree with you that there is a difference between government 
(state) and corporations and that on many issues it is better not to 
confuse both. But, I do not agree with the exemption of corporations from 
the Kafka metaphor. I think that as the experience of citizenship is 
mingled and taken for an experience as a consumer, this difference blurs. 
Think of the incredible power that a bank has in your personal life when 
deciding if you are a credit worthy individual. Having a credit history is, 
in many countries, more important than possessing citizenship. Banks are 
part of the corporate world, but their power on the experience of 
citizenship goes way beyond their corporate mandate. A couple of days ago, 
in a lecture dedicated to privacy in the wireless world the speaker, Mike 
Gurski, gave the example of a banker who was proudly announcing that his 
bank now knows all the details about their best clients life: from the time 
they get up, to the time they go to bed. This is much more than any fascist 
government could claim for themselves.

All the best. Ana

At 04:06 PM 2/3/01 -0500, you wrote:
>I was struck by the concerns of your post, some of which I think I share,
>and I am curious to know the reasoning behind the way you equate borders,
>loss of privacy, and the ability to block someone out ("The creation of
>borders is dependent on the loss of privacy, for you cannot block someone
>out unless you have some information about who they are"). I may not
>understand correctly, but it seems to me there is a contradiction in the
>way you end your post:

Tudo vale a pena se a alma não é pequena.

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