Four kinds of privacy

It’s hard to talk about ‘privacy’ without more precise language, so I’m posting this as a good start.

writes in The Social Filter, ‘In the introduction to The Offensive Internet, a collection of essays about online privacy issues, editors Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levmore list four distinct ways to conceive of the stakes of privacy:

There is the value of seclusion, which is the right to be beyond the gaze of others. There is intimacy, in which one chooses with whom to share certain information and experiences. There is also the interest in secrecy, which is to information as seclusion is to the physical person. And then there is autonomy, which is the set of private choices each person makes.’

And from the same article: ‘From Facebook’s perspective, privacy is a kind of transaction cost weighing on “peer productivity” within its vertically integrated social factory. Giving users apparent control over privacy settings pacifies their concerns and elicits more voluntary labor from them.’

And ‘As Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger point out in their chapter on “Obscurity and Privacy” for the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Technology, “Even if one keeps a relatively obscure digital trail, third parties can develop models of your interests, beliefs, and behavior based upon perceived similarities with others who share common demographics.” Regardless of what you have chosen to share, you can always be modeled more broadly. Companies like Facebook can ascribe simulated, probable data points to you, which will become factors in the way other institutions treat you, regardless of whether those probabilities are realities.’

On blogging?

I’m just leaving this here as something to think about when I’ve more time: Blogging is very much alive — we just call it something else now.

I’ve been posting on this site in a sorta-bloglike way since 1996 (and boy was I classy back then). I never really felt part of a wider blogosphere, particularly as more and more people I knew and read stopped blogging, but my posts were definitely part of wider conversations with friends and randoms. What now?



The world’s oldest toddler?

This piece by Deborah Orr absolutely skewers Clarkson.

It’s not enough for Jeremy Clarkson to say he’s not racist – he must act like it

The BBC has given Jeremy Clarkson a pass over accusations of racism. But will he now start to take responsibility for his own words and their meanings and ditch the martyr routine?
When you’re in the public eye, dealing in language, it is not enough to insist that you’re not a racist. You’ve also got to achieve a level of intellectual maturity that brings you to the understanding that racism isn’t funny, and that anti-racism isn’t funny either. Clarkson is in his mid-50s. He should have got there by now.
Clarkson styles himself as a libertarian, yet he shows contempt for his own autonomy by refusing to take responsibility for his own words – and mutterings – and their meanings. He invites others to do the job for him, because he’s too lazy and too arrogant to do it for himself. Then he insists that they are the problem, not him.
I can’t shake the mental image of Clarkson as a toddler, throwing his toys out of the pram and screaming “it’s not fair” when he has nothing left to play with.

On meritocracy

Two posts critiquing the concept of ‘merit’.

Appointed on merit? Might as well believe in the tooth fairy

The idea that talent decides top jobs ignores not just gender or race, but all the social connections that successful candidates accrue
Of course appointments should be made purely on merit. But – especially in public life – they are frequently made on the basis of connections: social and cultural capital accrued via old-school ties, college dining societies, nepotism, networking, and biases subconscious or overt. Nevertheless, those at the top of politics, business, media and the arts hold fast – understandably – to the notion that they have got there through their own hard graft and dazzling talent: their “merit”.
To accept that society functions on a purely meritocratic basis requires the same blend of woolly optimism and wilful blindness that Reaganites invested in “trickle-down economics”. Curiously, champions of meritocracy are usually detractors of socialism, which gets dismissed as “a nice idea, sure, but it simply wouldn’t work in practice, what with human nature being just too venal, greedy and corrupt”. Yet the equally optimistic myth of meritocracy endures, even though in a country governed by an Etonian elite – the cream of society only in the sense that they’re rich, white and bad for your health – it seems as quaint as believing in the tooth fairy.
In theory, a meritocracy should be a good thing. It basically boils down to a society in which people reap the rewards of their skill and effort. But as countless advocates for women and minorities in the tech world have pointed out, meritocracies are a lot messier in real life. The tech industry isn’t still predominantly white and male because white men are better at their jobs than everyone else, it’s because many white men have had more opportunities to succeed than their minority and female counterparts.
The false idea that the tech industry is a meritocracy hurts everyone.
I’ve started to wonder: do white, middle-to-upper class men ever lie awake at night wondering whether they only got as far as they did because of who they are and what they look like? The thought of a true meritocracy must be somewhat terrifying – would they have succeeded if women, working class kids and people of colour got a fair go? Presumably some of them wouldn’t have done nearly as well. Maybe that’s why some of them try to plant the idea of the ‘token woman’ or the ‘token black’ – it makes them feel better.

Rise in peace, Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou on libraries:

“I always knew from that moment, from the time I found myself at home in that little segregated library in the South, all the way up until I walked up the steps of the New York City library, I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me. So I have a special place for every library, in my heart of hearts.”

“Information is so important, and it must be open,” she said. “Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else. There may be details that are different, but a human being is a human being.”


And of course, “Still I Rise”.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.