照片:迈克·摩根

除了隐私

How democracy can survive in the digital age.

在他的书中 Life after Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society, Firmin DeBrabander ’94 argues that the battle to protect personal information in the digital age has largely been fought and lost. We recently spoke to the Maryland Institute College of Art philosophy professor about what that means for the future of our democracy.

When did we lose the battle for personal privacy?

赌钱软件下载从未真正拥有它. 这是郊区的产物. 在英格兰, once hedges went up in the front of houses, suddenly there was this expectation of some kind of privacy. After World War II, in America, we had suburban sprawl. You 可以n’t build a better infrastructure for privacy.

So privacy isn’t some kind of political ideal from our country’s founding?

The privacy advocates—who aren’t very happy with my book, by the way—take for granted that you need privacy. So I thought I’d try to get to the bottom of how essential it is to democracy. And I now believe that it’s not essential after all.

But we have had some degree of privacy in the past. 它怎么了??

We surrendered it, largely to reap the benefits of digital commerce. My younger students say things like, “What do I care if Amazon has my shoe size?” Even people in their forties and fifties, I’m amazed to
find that they’re not terribly worried about privacy, either. They’re thrilled that Wegmans knows what they like and pumps out the coupons. If you’re going to take advantage of these conveniences,
你需要打开你的生活. 谷歌的承诺是, The more you let us know about you, the more we can do for you. 大多数人都这样做.

What is the concern some people have about eroding privacy and democracy?

The political fear is that your enemies can use your information against you. It 可以 be straight-up black邮件, but it 可以 also be more subtle. 我常举的例子是,“我 可以 go on to Amazon and start looking for books by Hezbollah. 但如果我被监视了呢? 也许我不会.” So you censor yourself, of your own volition.

You don’t give that example anymore?

The problem is, people don’t actually behave like this online. People look at Hezbollah books every day.

Your conclusion is that privacy isn’t necessary for democracy. 这是为什么?

在研究这本书的过程中, I started reading about big social and political movements of the 20th century: civil rights, 同性恋权利, 劳工运动. The people in those efforts never had privacy. When Robert Moses went to Mississippi to organize sharecroppers, the white supremacists knew what he was up to immediately. He went into the courthouse and he was savagely beaten and nearly died. 他是如何坚持下来的? Through numbers, and through organization. You saw this in 劳工运动 as well. Ford and GM had spies in all of their factories. But the leaders were able to overcome that through superior organization over time. So what’s important is the power of organizing in the public realm—the public realm is more important to democracy than the private realm, but unfortunately the public realm is in a pretty poor shape in America.

怎么这么?

Once upon a time, we had all these public spaces where people 可以 meet and protest and organize. The most common place where people convene today is the mall. But the mall is actually a private space. They will escort you out if you stage a demonstration.

Isn’t social media the modern analog for the public space you’re describing?

It’s a very poor analog because of the nature of the discourse it produces. It has funneled people into echo chambers where they vilify one another. They don’t learn to talk to one another. So a recommitment to truly public spaces for productive dialogue would be part of a recommitment to democracy.

还需要什么?

A return to educating young people about the value of a public life and a commitment to democracy. Not just learning the facts of your democracy, 但作为一个公民意味着什么, and to work the engines of power as a democratic citizen.

So it’s a reinvestment in public spaces and civics classes versus some of the most powerful corporations in the history of the world. 你有多乐观??

总的来说,我是相当乐观的. It’s looking like there’s appetite for antitrust legislation in both parties, which 可以 rein in the power of these corporations. But I’m optimistic mostly because of the younger generation. They have this instinctive yearning for public life, and they have learned important lessons about the power of organization from movements like Black Lives Matter and the fight against climate change. 


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