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  • Liberty and privacy (cont’d)

    Posted by ken on January 12th, 2006 (All posts by )

    Instead of using privacy to help us evade the government’s attempts to enforce superfluous laws that people keep voting for, it may make more sense to investigate why people keep voting for them and address their concerns some other way.

    (This doesn’t always work. But it’s usually worth trying.)

    People generally vote for laws in the belief that it will make them safer. Sometimes it will even seem to work, but not for the reasons advertised.

    If there is some behavior that, for whatever reason, statistically marks someone as more likely to commit a real crime, it can be useful for a jurisdiction to outlaw that behavior. It may not prevent anyone from committing the associated real crime, but it can sometimes convince those people to move to some other jurisdiction and commit their crimes elsewhere. As long as no one actually comes out and says that, you can generally get such a law through without too many people complaining.

    (The amusing part is when the Feds completely misunderstand the situation and enact the same law on the Federal level…)

    People find themselves forced to resort to such expedients when the government is unable to enforce laws against real crimes by direct means. And in many cases, an expansive right to privacy will interfere with the direct approach. If the only alternative is having the authorities physically detain and interrogate you and seize your property without probable cause, we’re better off with expansive privacy rights. If there is an alternative of having the authorities gather information without molesting you in any way, and having a public trial where that information can be reasonably relied upon as genuine and unmodified, we may get more liberty overall by having the authorities freely gather such information (without releasing it except at trial!), more reliably punish real crime, and reduce the need to rely on mere statistical correlations to suppress or get rid of criminal activity.

    Of course, if this worked, we’d instead wind up with laws against the use of technology to thwart surveillance. And we’d be powerless to stage a revolution if our fearless leaders got completely out of hand. On the gripping hand, our fearless leaders have spent the past century going far beyond what drove our Founders to revolution and gotten away with it, so revolution as ultimate guardian of our rights is not that reliable anyway.

    Maybe a reliable lie-detector test will answer all of our concerns in the near future…

     

    One Response to “Liberty and privacy (cont’d)”

    1. ed in texas Says:

      The problem with using some behavior or characteristic that statistically is associated with criminal behavior to identify likely perps is currently being pummeled as PROFILING.