Tag Archives: liberty

Schneier shreds the Transparent Society

CCTV-warning-sign Regular readers will know I’m fond of citing David Brin’s Transparent Society concept as a potential solution to the escalating level of surveillance in our cultures. [image by takomabibelot]

However, it looks like I may have to reconsider the idea in light of an essay from security maven Bruce Schneier. The problem is that mutual disclosure doesn’t take into account the amount of power you have before a transaction begins:

“An example will make this clearer. You’re stopped by a police officer, who demands to see identification. Divulging your identity will give the officer enormous power over you: He or she can search police databases using the information on your ID; he or she can create a police record attached to your name; he or she can put you on this or that secret terrorist watch list. Asking to see the officer’s ID in return gives you no comparable power over him or her. The power imbalance is too great, and mutual disclosure does not make it OK.

You can think of your existing power as the exponent in an equation that determines the value, to you, of more information. The more power you have, the more additional power you derive from the new data.”

That said, Schneier is still definitely on-side with an increase in “watching of the watchers” – our ability to keep tabs on those who keep tabs on us is the difference between control and liberty. I just hope that, in light of the UK police’s increasingly Orwellian PR efforts, we haven’t already gone too far in trading freedom for supposed security.