July 17, 2007
Data privacy is a much abused concept. Fools and criminals are among the most anxious to enjoy the privilege of eprivacy. If you want for example to praise yourself to no end, anonymous web postings sure look attractive, as report Brad Stone and Matt Richtel (*). If you plan to commit murder, wouldn't it be great if cell phone records did not archive your every move, as writes Anemona Hartocollis (**)?
Should we be surprised then to hear voices such as James Altucher's (***) recommend insider trading be legalized as a way to save money on enforcement? If the lure of impunity entices too many people to break the law, isn't it more efficient to change the law than society? Recording Industry and Motion Picture Associations of America, please, take note.
Collective apathy from the general public does not help. If no one else cares but fools and criminals, what good indeed can better confidentiality deliver?
Let not mere ignorance cloud the issue. Recall our motto: Privacy, Identity, Responsibility and never separate Privacy from its siblings. Fools and criminals may depend on Privacy but their number one goal is to flee from Responsibility, a reaction shared by some large corporations as well.
Internet Responsibility is currently more ideal than reality. Good recommendation systems are hard to implement in view of this very need to support Responsibility. At least the law of information leakage provides a modicum of protection as assumed identities have a way to become known. And while I object to universal surveillance, I see no problem in Justice having access to someone's phone records, cell tower traces included, as part of a criminal investigation.
As far as insider trading is concerned, one must be very careful of reasonable people. It is a fact that market moving information is constantly available to many insiders. But in order to gain a significant edge from such information, insiders must know for certain it is scheduled to be published and trade ahead of its release. Legalizing insider trading would thus remove all value from public reporting except for archivists and the fraud police. Watch that step. As for the expense, let society shift data mining resources from targeting consumers to tracking crooks. We will save money, increase Privacy and give Responsibility a boost, all at once.
- (*) ..... The Hand That Controls the Sock Puppet Could Get Slapped, by Brad Stone and Matt Richtel (New-York Times) - July 16, 2007
- (**) ... When a Phone's Trill Prompts the Clang of Prison Doors, by Anemona Hartocollis (New-York Times) - July 16, 2007
- (***) . The case for legalising insider trades, by James Altucher (Financial Times) - July 9, 2007