Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Our Naked Society | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on January 24, 2023

The warnings raised by Packard and others have been noted though mostly ignored.Technology makes us comfortable. We are, for a lack of a better term, addicted. One of the dangers of this addiction is that we have no privacy. We are exposed to whoever may be prying into our world.The potential good that technology offers is nearly always offset by the dangers that the most evil would utilize it for.

by Kym Robinson

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In his 1964 book The Naked Society, Vance Packard challenged the ever increasing loss of privacy as technology and large institutions began wide spread surveillance that today has become acceptable. At the time, computer power, hidden cameras, and concealed microphones were crude gadgets compared to the technology currently in use. The intrusion into a person’s life then was nothing compared to what is acceptable today. With each generation we become comfortable and more obliging to the fact that we no longer are allowed privacy. We have all been stripped naked.

A subcommittee in the U.S. Congress to study the invasion of privacy was created due to the publishing of The Naked Society and its reception. One of the criticisms raised by Packard was the use of consumer information by corporations and the government to specifically target individuals. The concern was that data being collected would be used and then taken advantage of for self-serving and nefarious purposes. The use of computers to store such information was novel but such data would be permanently retained.

The ability to spy on individuals and to control what information they receive is the theme of most dystopian fictions. It’s also the reality in all tyrannies.  When one lives inside the bubble of a society that strips the individual bare and exposes them to prying eyes, it’s often claimed to be beneficial, as an act of benevolence. It is understood to be a necessity whether for security, safety, or health as part of a greater plan to control and protect us all from not only ourselves but the ills of the world. In the case of private actors the information can be used to enhance our shopping experiences or promote our preferences, trapping us in a spiral of self-consumption which in turn can diminish variety and hinder exploration.

The world was a different place in 1964, though many of the policies and events that occurred then still influence us all today. A cold war again has partitioned the planet as it had done previously and as such it has justified governments to manage and monitor individual’s lives accordingly. With the information released by Edward Snowden and in the Vault 7 leaks, U.S. citizens and those effected by their government are subject to surveillance and techno-controls that would have been in the past considered fantastic or Soviet.

For every argument made in defense of privacy, one will encounter scores of those challenging it, concerned about the need to protect children from predators to the frightful spectre of terrorism. The argumentation often goes that only those doing something evil would want privacy from the government, that encrypted software is a tool of criminals, and clandestine interactions are the domain of spies. Each time the call for privacy is raised it is for those who wish to remain private to defend their rights. But human decency and dignity have no place in a world of collectivist rationales.

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