Since the election, I've written repeatedly about the intersection of IT and public policy. But while I've covered multiple important subjects, I've barely touched on the most important of all: Privacy and liberty.
Issues of privacy and liberty take at least five forms:
Taken together, that amounts to much of the Bill of Rights – or other countries' equivalents -- plus a whole lot of life-saving technology on the side. I.e., it's more than huge.
When I thought about those a couple of years ago, I came up with four pillars of liberty in an information age. These are legal principles, which I hope you will not only agree with, but also advocate with the utmost of vigor:
In support of these, I have two other ringing recommendations. These pose systems design challenges, which I hope you'll participate in:
My focus is on the use of information, rather than its mere collection, for two main reasons. First, I regard liberty-preserving battles about the collection of information to in many cases be lost causes. We really can't stop the government from tapping the information floating around cyberspace. Heck,we can't even really stop Google. (Bill Thompson offers some thoughts as to just how far that goes, based on the recent Google Flu Trends project.) And in the United States, the courts have proved reluctant to be too expansive in their reading of the Fourth Amendment.
Second, I think that regulating use actually suffices. Look again at the Bill of Rights. On a first reading, it seems that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments prevent the government from getting certain kinds of information. It can't look inside our houses, and it can't make us answer questions ... wrong! Actually, the courts can compel you to testify on any subject they choose; if you refuse to answer, you can go to jail for contempt of court. But they can only compel you if you are given immunity, so that you can't be convicted of the crimes the testimony reveals. I.e., the government can get the information it wants; it just can't use that information to harm you. (Fourth Amendment rights are a little murkier; if the government finagles its way into your house for any reasons, there are still actively litigated questions as to what kinds of information it can use that it may find there.)
I have a bit of an audience on these subjects. (Hey, you're reading this, right?) But I need all the help I can get. Please join me in raising awareness. Blog yourself. Send email to those who might have influence. Or – and this one's really easy – just go to the suggestion page at www.change.gov and help draw the incoming Administration's attention toward these crucial issues.
Curt Monash is a leading analyst of and strategic advisor to the software industry. Praised by Lawrence J. Ellison for his "unmatched insight into technology and marketplace trends," Curt was the software/services industry's #1 ranked stock analyst while at PaineWebber, Inc., where he served as a First Vice President until 1987. He subsequently co-founded Evernet, Inc., a $40 million networking systems integrator. Since 1990, he has owned and operated Monash Research, an analysis and advisory firm covering software-intensive sectors of the technology industry. In that period he also has been co-founder, president, or chairman of several other technology startups.
Curt has served as a strategic advisor to many well-known firms, including Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, AOL, CA, and Netezza. Curt earned a Ph.D. in mathematics (Game Theory) from Harvard University. He has held faculty positions in mathematics, economics and public policy at Harvard, Yale, and Suffolk universities.