Friday, February 15, 2008

Surveillance Opt-In: A Case for Long Tail Legislation

As a citizen of the USA I would like to exercise my right to allow my government to monitor my travel, communications, and economic transactions.

Laws are written that respect those who want privacy and anonymity, and then this preference is imposed as default for all citizens. I resent the social model and social assumptions forced upon, and altering, my relationship to law enforcement.

Anonymity and privacy are no benefit to me. I do not have anything to hide from law enforcement. I would be safer with less anonymity. I would be safer if law enforcement knew who I was, and what I have been doing.

I want legislation to be worded with a deliberate clause "will not X without the consent of the citizen". X stands for many forms of surveillance. This level of granularity and choice will give the system of civil rights a better match to what each citizen wants. For those who want more privacy, the rights are in place for that. For those like me who want more surveillance, the rights are in place for that.

Using one academic conference as a sample, I want to show weaknesses in an older way of doing things. This conference has the system inquiry question:

"How can we arrive at a normatively sound conception of personal identity as a starting point for the study of the ethical aspects of the (information) technology that is shaping our lives? "

-Ethics, Technology and Identity Conference, June 18-20 of 2008

I contend that the words we and normative are indicators of a problem. These words work with society in the wrong way. First, the we means those who weigh in at the conference or in peer review dialogue afterwards. It is a small group deciding for wider society. The word normative is the most pathological. Why should laws, or interpretation of the civic will, be constructed very much like pop culture? e.g; The American public likes music by Justin Timberlake, NASCAR racing, and abhors surveillance, and consequently, we can assume you like Justin Timberlake, NASCAR racing, and abhor surveillance.

The reign of pop culture legislation can be undone, and long tail economics could be applied to our legal framework. With two-way text communication of the internet, government could ask you to fill out a survey that tailored which rights of privacy you want, and which rights you waive. This online data entry you provide would construct the relationship you want with government's criminal investigation technologies. Such an interface to government would be more empowerment for the citizen than a system of proxy representation, with its distorting normalizations.

Example National Opt-In Online Form:

Video surveillance: Yes No
Record my internet activity: Yes No
Record my economic transactions: Yes No

1 comment:

The Serpent Lord said...

Those with adequate resources and incentives can already acquire private security and auditing services.

Perhaps there is an open source business model for private security that pays for itself. For example, what if I give permission for a private individual or corporation to monitor me as long as they also provide the information to law enforcement officers for no charge.

Or you might treat your life like a kind of long-tail reality TV programming. The mass market has little interest in my daily performances, but I can still share it under a free content license in the hopes that it will be useful (but with no warranty :-)

Every time you walk past a security camera you are recording street theater. Every receipt is a page of your budget report. Every link you click is added to a web directory (category: Links I Clicked.) All potentially copyrighted material (if they were organized and published in the right way.)

Instead of 15 minutes of fame, you could have a lifetime of published mediocrity!