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Privacy in the global village March 1, 2003

Posted by samwyse in Editorials.

I grew up in a small town. Privacy does not exist in a small town. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, if not immediately then at the speed of gossip. This is what happened to Laurie. She said something to someone, they repeated it to someone else, and the next thing you know everyone in the village knew about it.

This is the natural state of humanity. It’s only recently that cities were invented, where I define a city to be a group of people large enought that the “everybody knows your name” property fails. Privacy doesn’t exist in villages, but then again neither does crime. In this sense, cities are a temporary aberation, because mass communications is making the world into a global village. Soon, we will be able to identify everyone we casually pass on the street, maybe by wearable webcams and facial identification algorithms, maybe by bluetooth-enabled id badges, quite possibly by a combination of both of these and more.

If you see someone on the street corner selling drugs, you’ll be able to identify them. Ditto if you see them entering an adult book store or an abortion clinic. And just as quickly, you’ll be able to pass the information along to people whom you think would be interested, be they the police, a spouse, or a faith-based group. At that point, crime and privacy will again cease to exist, and the “good old days” will return.



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