Four theses on mass surveillance and privacy negotiation

A French Digital Theory approach to a post-Snowden world.

THESIS 1: SURVEILLANCE HAS BECOME PARTICIPATORY

Insofar as the quantity of disclosed data is determined by criteria that govern day-to-day sociability and not by the need to protect the citizens, the search for a balance or fair ratio between privacy and security proves illusory.

THESIS 2: CLAIMS THAT ‘THE END OF PRIVACY IS NIGH’ ARE ERRONEOUS AND IDEOLOGICALLY BIASED

In an attempt at historical and cultural restoration, the outcome of the fully networked society tech giants aim to, would be the return to a time that they portray as one of harmony and openness among primary circles of socialization.

Whether it is motivated by commercial interests or political concerns, the historical narrative that underlies the hypothesis of the end of privacy remains therefore controversial. Rather than a smooth, linear transition from a world where privacy plays an important role to one where it has supposedly lost its raison d’être, we are today engaged in a full-fledged culture war over confidentiality, anonymity, and secrecy.

THESIS 3: RATHER THAN FADING AWAY, THE ‘CARE OF PRIVACY’ IS SPREADING THROUGHOUT THE NETWORK SOCIETY

After Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘care of the self’, the care of privacy can be described as the task of defining the boundary between public and private — in other words, between collective responsibilities and constraints, and that which pertains to the individual capacity to think and act.

Although this possibility was previously restricted to a specific category of individuals (free men with steady incomes), it now extends to all those (women, children, disadvantaged citizens, etc.) who previously had no need to protect their privacy precisely because they were excluded from public life.

THESIS 4: PRIVACY HAS CEASED TO BE AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT AND HAS BECOME A COLLECTIVE NEGOTIATION

We choose to label the current transition as a shift from privacy-as-penetration to a privacy-as-negotiation.

In that it is based on seeking an agreement between several parties rather than on a rule decreed by just one of them, this vision of privacy can be likened to a collective bargaining.

CONCLUSION: AGAINST THE ‘PRIVATIZATION OF PRIVACY’

The sale of data under a private ownership system would generate only inconsequential incomes and would further foster socio-economic inequalities.

I am my own worst bot. Associate prof. @TelecomPTech / researcher @EHESS_fr. Latest book: 'Against the Hypothesis of the End of Privacy' http://t.co/4gOczJQctM.

I am my own worst bot. Associate prof. @TelecomPTech / researcher @EHESS_fr. Latest book: 'Against the Hypothesis of the End of Privacy' http://t.co/4gOczJQctM.