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Privacy: Demand as Information Parity

Previously, I provided an overview on why the demand for privacy is rising. Based on that, I suggested that there were three qualities of information underlying the increasing demand. The first quality, parity of information, is the topic I want to address now. By addressing this component of privacy, my goal is to flesh more of my vision for the end of privacy.

We can describe information states as similar in concept to the states of matter (i.e., solid, gas, liquid, plasma) insofar as the same information object can transition between discrete conditions such as private, non-private, and associated child states. 

Jason Pittman

That is, private information consists of subordinate conditions such as private and for me onlyprivate and for me and my family members only, and so forth. On the other hand, the state of non-private seems to consist of a single subordinate condition which is equivalent to open-access.

Now, parity exists when the state of my (or your) information is either

  1. the same as others’ state such that we can exchange freely or
  2. others are within the context of the state such that we can access the information without restriction.

Conversely, disparity indicates that there is an imbalance between information states. That is, my (or your) information is either

  1. not the same as others’ state such that we cannot freely exchange information or
  2. access is restricted in some manner such that there is a not an equitable exchange possible. In simple terms, one entity has more access while the other has less.

Here, we can consider location services data as an example. Location services is the vectoring of physical location through software services such as Google Maps, MyFitnessPal, and even cellular radio transmissions. There are cultures wherein location services data is not considered private whereas there are cultures in which the very idea of location services data being shared is evil incarnate. Naturally, there are cultures, and individuals within these cultures, that ascribe a privacy state to location services between these two extremes. Thus, the privacy afforded to location services as an information object is…flexible.

Flexibility does not negatively impact the concept of parity however. Parity of information is vital to open and vibrant systems. Systems in parity impart equal and consistent access to the same information across all individuals, equally. This means that all information is knowable by all parties to the same degree. Thus, the act of knowing is without restriction and without control.

That’s an ideal, however. In reality, to keep information parity or to keep information disparity in our favor, we demand privacy. Whether such privacy is control over information, limitations on the information, keeping information secret, or allowing no one to intrude upon our information, modern culture craves privacy.

My view is that this demand for privacy as a force of parity is misguided at best, malignant at worst. Before we reach that discussion, it will be helpful to explore a byproduct of information parity states: information as a currency. Currency is also the second quality of information pushing the growth in demand for privacy. Tune in next time for a discussion on the currency aspect of information and how such reveals more about why privacy must end.