To date we have written about the Panopticon in a mostly figurative sense. Clear eyes today means seeing it in a literal sense as well. Here’s your top of the Zeitgeist piece, a Financial Times feature on the death of privacy – and more importantly, the arguments being made in favor of its demise.
Is Privacy Dead? [Financial Times]
This is rather obviously an argument for the inevitability (if not explicitly in support) of the literal Panopticon. Indeed, there are few nudges more powerful than those which compel us to believe that we are already engaged in a contest of mutually assured destruction. How does the nudge work?
It tells you that you aren’t protecting your family if you don’t participate in the ritual of collective surveillance.
If tells you that you aren’t a functioning, right-thinking member of society if you don’t do your part to aid the herd immunity of mutually assured surveillance.
We killed our web-based ads this week. We did it for a few reasons. First, in all candor, we did it because the revenues from it were good (you’re an audience advertisers desperately want to reach), but not life-changing. Second, we did it because no matter how hard we worked with our partners, ads we didn’t feel good about kept slipping through the net (and while we’re not judging you, please bear in mind that some of the example ads you sent to me and Ben were, shall we say, uh, the result of your own browsing histories). Third, we did it because the technologies required to serve up the most valuable ads put us in the position of asking you to give up control of some of your data in ways that we found it hard to justify.
I don’t want to make this some kind of big deal, because it isn’t. We still have to collect information about you to accept payments – although even there, we are in the process of exploring the integration of btcpay through a self-hosted node to reduce even that requirement for those who are so inclined. And we are not communists: if we can find ways to serve non-subscribers advertisements that don’t effectively treat your data as if it were our own, we will put up the most obnoxious banner ads you can imagine – and smile doing it.
But no, the Big Deal is when all of us choose to act with reciprocity – acting in ways that are likely to promote cooperative gameplay. And friends, mutually assured surveillance is the ultimate competitive game, a massively sized and massively failed stag hunt that is part of the transformation of all of our social engagements into games with bad equilibrial outcomes for everyone. The nudges that can be summoned to secure our compliance are many:
We will hear that what we can do with others’ data can make us (and our shareholders) wealthier.
We will hear that it will make us safer.
We will hear that it will make our neighbors and communities safer.
Every last one of those things will be 100% true. Clear eyes.
Every last one of those things will also be 100% wrong. Full hearts.