About now you’re wondering why I’m asking that question here, in the Otherwhere Gazette, a fanzine. Well, we’re all geeks here, are we not? I had to answer the above question in a paper, which you can find at my personal blog today. The case I was analyzing prior to answering that question was related to legality of search incident to arrest inclusive of cell phones. The SCOTUS came down on the side of ‘not without a warrant, buddy,’ and I fully agree. Let’s stop and think a moment.
We’re geeks. Most if not all of us are reading this on a computer, with the internet. A large portion of the readers are viewing this on a mobile device, be it phone or tablet, which they might have on them were they to be arrested. So… what do you keep on your device? I don’t know about you, but I’ve got photos, music, games… and the much more serious and privacy-restricted (per the fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution) emails, documents, financial information. My list could go on and on. As a class exercise we created a list of about 15 sensitive areas you can access just with a smart phone in about ten minutes. It took us that long because we were also arguing over which was the most intimate and potentially harmful for an outsider to look at.
Now that I have you thinking about how vulnerable you are, if you hadn’t thought of it already… You’re a geek. In my experience, proper geeks are aware of security. It’s not paranoid if they really are out to get you (why, hello, Nancy NSA, I was talking about you. But it’s ok, you can go back to solitaire now). Personally, I’m absolutely pants at it. I walk around campus with a laptop, tablet, and cell phone on any given day, and none of them with encryption. That’s about 550 gb of data in my backpack (potentially, my laptop isn’t full yet…) for someone to riffle through.
And that’s now. What happens in a decade, two at the outside, when implantable technology becomes feasible, and the very air we breathe is full of signals about us, our lives, our everything? Is privacy going to be possible?
Probably not. And frankly, I’m geeky enough to not relish going off grid and leaving all my friends and most of my family behind. So what?
I don’t have answers. I am not even sure I could frame the right questions. However, looking at this case, I can say that we still, for a time, have the option to keep Lady Justice blind. If we can retain our rights to privacy when it comes to ‘papers’ as set out in the Constitution, then for a time we still have a veil of privacy. I hate politics. But there needs to be reasonable people who are elected to office and held accountable if we are to be able to retain this illusory scrap around our most intimate parts for some time to come.
If for a time we can keep those eyes blindered with the veils of the law, then we should do so. Only by blinkering the men who interact with the private citizens can we hope to achieve fairness of the law at the street level. Can you imagine knowing every peccadillo, every possible crime that a person has committed immediately upon contact with them? Trust and assumption of innocence become impossible even to the most reasonable person.