A Conversation About Secrecy and Privacy

There’s an interesting conversation over at Edge — not the legal consulting company, but the foundation that holds colloquiums on important issues in science, philosophy, and art. This discussion is entitled Who Gets to Keep Secrets? and the question was posed by Daniel Hillis, a computer scientist, who amplified it thus:

The question of secrecy in the information age is clearly a deep social (and mathematical) problem, and well worth paying attention to.

When does my right to privacy trump your need for security? Should a democratic government be allowed to practice secret diplomacy? Would we rather live in a world with guaranteed privacy or a world in which there are no secrets? If the answer is somewhere in between, how do we draw the line?

As you might imagine, Wikileaks features prominently, as does law: law constituting governments, law delimiting privacy rights, and law shaded into ethics and morality.

Those who responded to Hillis included: the Provost of Georgetown University; the ED of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; the Editor of the Arts section of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung; George Dyson, the science historian; and Clay Shirky, adjunct Prof. at NYU. Hillis replied to many of the comments, and was in some cases replied to.

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