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Evgeny Morozov on Why Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise | MIT Technology Review
When all citizens demand their rights but are unaware of their responsibilities, the political questions that have defined democratic life over centuries—How should we live together? What is in the public interest, and how do I balance my own interest with it?—are subsumed into legal, economic, or administrative domains. “The political” and “the public” no longer register as domains at all; laws, markets, and technologies displace debate and contestation as preferred, less messy solutions.

But a democracy without engaged citizens doesn’t sound much like a democracy—and might not survive as one. This was obvious to Thomas Jefferson, who, while wanting every citizen to be “a participator in the government of affairs,” also believed that civic participation involves a constant tension between public and private life. A society that believes, as Simitis put it, that the citizen’s access to information “ends where the bourgeois’ claim for privacy begins” won’t last as a well-functioning democracy.

Thus the balance between privacy and transparency is especially in need of adjustment in times of rapid technological change. That balance itself is a political issue par excellence, to be settled through public debate and always left open for negotiation. It can’t be settled once and for all by some combination of theories, markets, and technologies. As Simitis said: “Far from being considered a constitutive element of a democratic society, privacy appears as a tolerated contradiction, the implications of which must be continuously reconsidered.”
21stC  tech  Internet  civil_liberties  civic_virtue  democracy  EF-add 
october 2013 by dunnettreader

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