Damn reporters

I and nearly everyone else with more than two brain cells to rub together should have learned our lesson. But we fall for it again and again.

Remember when I another blogger or two raised a big stink about the Principle Deputy Director of the National Intelligence said we need to refine privacy? Well… the reporter apparently thought he could read the guys mind or something. Here is the actual speech.

Bruce Schneier took it the same we did at first but followed up with a link the next day to the actual speech–which is how I got straightened out.

The reporter got it wrong. And we believed it because it was what we wanted to hear. We want to hear how dangerous the government is. We latched on to that sloppy (I’m giving her, Pamela Hess, the benefit of the doubt) reporting and ran with it. Shame on us.

The critical passage is here:

Too often, privacy has been equated with anonymity; and it’s an idea that is deeply rooted in American culture. The Long Ranger wore a mask but Tonto didn’t seem to need one even though he did the dirty work for free. You’d think he would probably need one even more. But in our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity – or the appearance of anonymity – is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available – and I’m just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here – the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. We need to move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment. Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that. Instead, privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured. And it is that framework that we need to grow and nourish and adjust as our cultures change.

I think people here, at least people close to my age, recognize that those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all. It’s a need to have it be adjustable to the needs of local societies as they evolve in our country. Eventually, we can only hope that people’s perceptions – in Hollywood and elsewhere – will catch up.

I’m not saying everything he said is 100% okay with me. But I will say that I no longer think Mr. Kerr deserves the one-way ticket I had suggested before.