Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Privacy

The Slow Corruption of Public Discourse Since Watergate

In the 44 years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States, political discourse has deteriorated. There are many reasons for the decline in the discourse, but today I want to focus on two forces which have come together in America–one sociological, the other technological–to impose a spontaneous order which greatly reduces the scope for authentic expression, both in public and in private. This new social order is not planned by anyone–it has no author, it requires no institutionalised hard coercion. It arises spontaneously from the interaction of the two forces.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Internet is like a Road

There’s a lot of disagreement about the extent to which the state is entitled to take metadata on whom people communicate with on the internet and over the phone. I’d like to make a broad argument, one that I think ought to hold no matter what kind of state you live in, whether you’re in the US or Europe or China or what have you. This argument relies on our conception of the “public network”. What do we understand to be a public network, and what can the state do with public networks? Once we have determined what a public network is, we can apply the same moral and legal principles to every  public network. I think that roads, rails, phone lines, power lines, pipes, the internet, and mobile phones are all in an important sense public networks, and that the laws and principles governing surveillance of any one of these networks should apply to all of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Not-So-Secret Spying Program

If you’re in the United States and you haven’t been living under a rock, the big story right now is how the government has been secretly gathering information about your phone and internet activity! You have no privacy! The media has whipped up a hysteria–I’ve heard it openly referred to as a “secret phone-tapping program”. The trouble is, this version of the story is extremely misleading. The government has been open about this since the mid-2000’s. Information about it has been widely available, so much so that I can construct a timeline of how this program came about with relative ease.

Read the rest of this entry »