Life as an open book:

Life as an open book
: Privacy is one of those unquestioned holy words of the age: Privacy is a virtue; incursions on privacy are evil. I’ve long thought privacy was overrated; it’s often just a synonym for paranoia.

Blasphemous as it may be, I’ve never had a problem with Microsoft cookie-ing me knowing what programs I use; I like Amazon remembering what I buy. But those are trivial (if often emotional) considerations. 9.11 changed that. Now privacy is a real issue when it stands in the way of real security. Are we giving up some privacy and, yes, some civil rights post 9.11? I am, gladly.

Now Macleans, the Canadian newsmagazine, gives us a provocative essay by science fiction writer Robert Sawyer arguing not only that privacy is overrated. but that we need less privacy. [via Shift]

Whenever I visit a tourist attraction that has a guest register, I always sign it. After all, you never know when you’ll need an alibi.

I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, but these days you don’t have to take any positive action to leave a trail behind. Almost everything we do is recorded. Closed-circuit cameras watch us in most public places. Our credit-card purchases, telephone calls and Web surfing are all tracked.

Editorialists have decried these losses of privacy, as if it were the most sacred of human rights. But just what is the value of privacy? Do we really need it? And, indeed, can we afford it? After all, everything from your son’s shoplifting to the destruction of the towers at the World Trade Center could have been prevented if we had less of an ability to do things in secret.

Sawyer goes on to give us a not-too-science-fictional view of a world in which personal recorders and transmitters could protect us and our property from theft or lawsuit or ailments or death.

The message of history, most spectacularly driven home in the 9/11 terror attacks, is that preserving society as a whole is much more important than preserving an illusory personal freedom.