Lawrence Lessig on Privacy Protection - Dictionary of Arguments
Privacy Protection/Lessig: Privacy is a surprisingly similar story [as copyright]. Indeed, as Jonathan Zittrain argued in an essay published in the Stanford Law Review, (1) the problems of privacy and copyright are exactly the same.With both, there’s a bit of “our” data that we’ve” lost control over. In the case of copyright, it is the data constituting a copy of our copyrighted work; in the case of privacy, it is the data representing some fact about us. In both cases, the Internet has produced this loss of control: with copyright, because the technology enables perfect and free copies of content; with privacy, as we’ll see in this chapter, because the technology enables perpetual and cheapmonitoring of behavior.
The big difference between copyright and privacy, however, is the political economy that seeks a solution to each problem.With copyright, the interests threatened are powerful and well organized; with privacy, the interests threatened are diffuse and disorganized.With copyright, the values on the other side of protection (the commons, or the public domain) are neither compelling nor well understood.With privacy, the values on the other side of protection
(security, the war against terrorism) are compelling and well understood. The result of these differences, as any political theorist would then predict, is that over the past ten years, while we’ve seen a lot of legislative and technical changes to solve the problems facing copyright, we’ve seen very few that would solve the problems of privacy.
The values of speech are different from the values of privacy; the control we want to vest over speech is less than the control we want to vest over privacy. For the same reasons that we disable some of the control over intellectual property, we should disable some of the control over speech. A little bit of messiness or friction in the context of speech is a value, not a cost.
1. See Jonathan Zittrain, “What the Publisher Can Teach the Patient: Intellectual Property
and Privacy in an Era of Trusted Privication,” Stanford Law Review 52 (2000): 1201.
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