Brian Holmes on 13 Feb 2001 15:36:02 -0000

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<nettime> Privacy anyone?

Hi Ana -

Thanks for the reply. Actually we agree on a lot of things - especially
when you point to the excessive powers that corporations are gaining over
their clients' personal data, and when you say that the urgent question is
how what you're calling "institutional borders" will be implemented. The
corps do have the tracking technologies, they will use them, and there
already is the beginnings of a backlash against those uses. The question,
in this and so many other areas of globalization, is what to do, now that
the backlash has brought specific situations to the table? In other words,
what kind of privacy to push for, and how? "Fighting back with code" does
seem promising in the short run, for those who can do it, but I guess it's
worth thinking about the general polity too. The two approaches aren't
mutually exclusive.

We also agree about the commodification of privacy. In the sentence of mine
that you quote about the "lifetime value" issue (which was not clearly
written, I think), I was just trying to say that Nortel is trying to turn
us into "lifetime value" *for them*, i.e. they're trying to commodify us,
to commodify our privacy. I think they do it not by constraining us in any
way, as state agencies do with their files collected on us, but rather by
stimulating and channeling certain kinds of desire. For me this is probably
the most iniquitous part of the whole thing, because it contributes to the
great process of remodeling subjectivity alonging market lines. Eliciting
market-oriented desire. That's an old process (cf. TV) but it's off to a
new start with data banks, tracking, and one-to-one marketing techniques.

All that's surely Kafkaesque. But I still think there's a fine point about
whether it's "fascistic." What you say, precisely, is that it's getting as
bad as a fascist state, and there I agree. But I think it's going to
operate quite differently than any fascist state ever has (and
unfortunately, there's a traditional police state coming back right
alongside it - cf. the way "anti-globalization" protestors are getting
spied on right now, in Canada for instance).

Finally, I think you hit the essential part when you write about borders:

" 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."

That's the situation. To understand what's at stake there, subjectively,
socially, and politically, I think it would be necesary to develop a strong
definition of privacy in relation to former legislation and social customs,
and then try to see what the new situation does to the initial definition.
I'll give a go at that argument when I get some time...

best, Brian

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