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Contextual Quote

"The remedy for over-secrecy is to think in terms of coveillance, so that we make tracking and monitoring as symmetrical -- and transparent -- as possible. That way the monitoring can be regulated, mistakes appealed and corrected, specific boundaries set and enforced. A massively surveilled world is not a world I would design (or even desire), but massive surveillance is coming either way because that is the bias of digital technology and we might as well surveil well and civilly."

- Kevin Kelly [1]


Kevin Kelly:

"In this version of surveillance -- a transparent coveillance where everyone sees each other -- a sense of entitlement can emerge: Every person has a human right to access, and benefit from, the data about themselves. The commercial giants running the networks have to spread the economic benefits of tracing people’s behavior to the people themselves, simply to keep going. They will pay you to track yourself. Citizens film the cops, while the cops film the citizens. The business of monitoring (including those who monitor other monitors) will be a big business. The flow of money, too, is made more visible even as it gets more complex.

Much of this scenario will be made possible by the algorithmic regulation of information as pioneered by open source projects. For instance, while a system like Bitcoin makes anonymous bank accounts possible, it does so by transparently logging every transaction in its economy, therefore making all financial transactions public. PGP encryption relies on code that anyone can inspect, and therefore trust and verify. It generates “public privacy”, so to speak.

Encoding visible systems open to all eyes makes gaming them for secret ends more difficult.

Every large system of governance -- especially a digital society -- is racked by an inherent tension between rigid fairness and flexible personalization. The cloud sees all: The cold justice of every tiny infraction by a citizen, whether knowingly or inadvertent, would be as inescapable as the logic of a software program. Yet we need the humanity of motive and context. One solution is to personalize justice to the context of that particular infraction. A symmetrically surveilled world needs a robust and flexible government -- and transparency -- to enforce adaptable fairness.

But if today's social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species it is that the human impulse to share trumps the human impulse for privacy. So far, at every juncture that offers a technological choice between privacy or sharing, we've tilted, on average, towards more sharing, more disclosure. We shouldn't be surprised by this bias because transparency is truly ancient. For eons humans have lived in tribes and clans where every act was open and visible and there were no secrets. We evolved with constant co-monitoring. Contrary to our modern suspicions, there wouldn't be a backlash against a circular world where we constantly spy on each other because we lived like this for a million years, and -- if truly equitable and symmetrical -- it can feel comfortable."