This will not go well . . .

by on September 15, 2007 · 10 comments

Google’s Peter Fleischer commences their call for global privacy standards saying, “As I’ve noted before, everyone has a right to privacy online.” Wrong.

Privacy is a good, not a right. Government standards to protect privacy (if even possible) would be a set of entitlements, not a vindication of rights.

More on what privacy is here.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Good post.

    As an aside, the concept of privacy is much like intellectual property, the so-called “owner” asserts rights that they do not even possess. In a semi-famous incident “Claiming an invasion of her privacy, Barbra Streisand is suing a California man for disseminating aerial pictures of her Malibu home.”. Streisand’s privacy “claim” is clearly absurd since it seeks to diminish what a person can freely do in public, but this is also akin to content producers claiming that they have the so-called unilateral “right” to diminish the rights of the public to the use of their content.

    What is humorous in an Orwellian newspeak sense is the the assertion, in the privacy policy notices, of corporations on how they “value” your privacy and seek to protect it; yet (a couple of paragraphs down) they admit to giving your personal information away to virtually anyone for any reason they deem appropriate. If you really want to keep your information “confidential” you have to go contact them. If they were really concerned about privacy, they wouldn’t give it away – period.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Good post.

    As an aside, the concept of privacy is much like intellectual property, the so-called “owner” asserts rights that they do not even possess. In a semi-famous incident “Claiming an invasion of her privacy, Barbra Streisand is suing a California man for disseminating aerial pictures of her Malibu home.”. Streisand’s privacy “claim” is clearly absurd since it seeks to diminish what a person can freely do in public, but this is also akin to content producers claiming that they have the so-called unilateral “right” to diminish the rights of the public to the use of their content.

    What is humorous in an Orwellian newspeak sense is the the assertion, in the privacy policy notices, of corporations on how they “value” your privacy and seek to protect it; yet (a couple of paragraphs down) they admit to giving your personal information away to virtually anyone for any reason they deem appropriate. If you really want to keep your information “confidential” you have to go contact them. If they were really concerned about privacy, they wouldn’t give it away – period.

  • Hiroko

    So far, Google hasn’t “given it away” except when governments have forced them to (and has resisted that in court, where possible). I think that firmer standards about what governments (and cartels like the RIAA and MPAA) can and cannot force providers to disclose is a good thing. The Cato article calls out this threat specifically.

    Arguing about whether something is a right or an entitlement is a distinction without a difference, though. You could call the US Bill of Rights “the bill of entitlements”, and it would still be both useful and important.

  • Hiroko

    So far, Google hasn’t “given it away” except when governments have forced them to (and has resisted that in court, where possible). I think that firmer standards about what governments (and cartels like the RIAA and MPAA) can and cannot force providers to disclose is a good thing. The Cato article calls out this threat specifically.

    Arguing about whether something is a right or an entitlement is a distinction without a difference, though. You could call the US Bill of Rights “the bill of entitlements”, and it would still be both useful and important.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    I’ll bet the Bill of Rights would be weakened by calling it the “Bill of Entitlements.” The judges and lawyers who administer it would be confused about what they’re doing.

    I think “rights” and “entitlements” are distinct, if related, concepts. Here’s the way I think about them: Rights are legal claims. The strongest sense of the term is the claim to be free from various forms of government interference.

    Entitlements are a subset of rights – legal claims to goods, things like housing, medical care, or satisfactory conditions like privacy. Where many rights, such as free speech, property, etc., are grounded in natural law, entitlements/rights to goods are not.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    I’ll bet the Bill of Rights would be weakened by calling it the “Bill of Entitlements.” The judges and lawyers who administer it would be confused about what they’re doing.

    I think “rights” and “entitlements” are distinct, if related, concepts. Here’s the way I think about them: Rights are legal claims. The strongest sense of the term is the claim to be free from various forms of government interference.

    Entitlements are a subset of rights – legal claims to goods, things like housing, medical care, or satisfactory conditions like privacy. Where many rights, such as free speech, property, etc., are grounded in natural law, entitlements/rights to goods are not.

  • http://www.digital-copyright.ca/petition Chris Brand

    Jim, so what about “intellectual property rights” ? Grounded in natural law ?

  • http://www.digital-copyright.ca/petition Chris Brand

    Jim, so what about “intellectual property rights” ? Grounded in natural law ?

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    No, I don’t think they’re grounded in natural law. They are entitlements, granted to producers of certain kinds of information, intended to give them incentives to produce. Intellectual property rights certainly aren’t rights in the strongest sense – ensuring freedom from government interference.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    No, I don’t think they’re grounded in natural law. They are entitlements, granted to producers of certain kinds of information, intended to give them incentives to produce. Intellectual property rights certainly aren’t rights in the strongest sense – ensuring freedom from government interference.

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