Might as well quit now
Via Wired UK:
It’s already too late to stop the ubiquitous tracking and monitoring of the public through biometrics, says Peter Waggett, Programme Leader at IBM’s Emerging Technology Group. We need to stop worrying about prevention, and start working out how to make the most of data garnered from that kind of surveillance.
“We’re fighting the wrong battle when we ask should we stop people being observed. That is not going to be feasible. We need to understand how to use that data better,” urged Waggett, who was speaking as part of a Nesta panel debate on what biometrics mean for the future of privacy.
So I guess that settles it! Those concerned about invasions of their privacy or constant monitoring should stop worrying and learn to love Big Data. It’s time to move on to something “feasible,” that last stage of grief called acceptance.
Mr. Waggett adds:
“I’ve been working in biometrics for 20 years, and it’s reaching a tipping point where it’s going to be impossible not to understand where people are and what they are doing. Everything will be monitored. It’s part of the reason why when we put together the definition of biometrics it included biological and behavioural characteristics — it can be anything.”
It really can be anything, and I don’t question that we’re reaching a tipping point in biometrics. Technology has considerably – and rapidly – advanced in this area, but as companies (and government) turn the data-collection dial to 11, the number of people searching for the brakes is also considerably – and rapidly – rising. Despite how overwhelming current capabilities may seem, how all this will shake out is far from settled. Consumers may indeed choose to accept and ultimately embrace constant monitoring if they feel the trade off for convenience and more narrowly tailored options is worth it, but what if they are pushed to a point where privacy concerns trump all and revolt, leaving those companies who stake the most on data collection not only out in the cold but actively criticized? And what about its more technologically savvy opponents? Though Mr. Waggett and others are confident systems can be secured from attack, how many times have we already seen such confidence shattered?
After describing the increasing accuracy of biometric systems, Mr. Waggett concludes:
“But trying to stop this would be fighting the wrong battle. The information is out of the bottle already — we have to deal with the issues surrounding it now. Embrace the challenge of what we’ve got, embrace understanding it and focus on what we can do with that new data.”
The battle will certainly be over if privacy advocates accept this premise and call it a day. Again, whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But reading through the piece, I couldn’t help but think of how often Campaign for Liberty and our members have been told this about any of the political fights we’ve undertaken. If we had a nickel for every time we were told, “There’s nothing that can be done, so give up the hopeless cause,” we could set up a rival bank to the Fed.
But how else is change ever achieved than to keep pushing? Who in history has done great things by saying, “Eh, that’s ok. My odds of success seem kinda bleak anyway.”?
The most obvious example that comes to mind is Audit the Fed. When we undertook the cause, we were told the bill would never get anywhere, that the Fed was too powerful to challenge, and that our efforts would be pointless. Fast forward five years, and we’ve watched U.S. House hearings and seen a limited audit turned into law – producing results that increased outrage at the central bank and provoked more questions about what they’ve been doing – and we’ve forced the full bill successfully through the House, with it quickly closing in on majority support in that chamber again. Polls repeatedly report nearly 75% of Americans support a thorough audit of the Federal Reserve, a statistic that was unheard of until our grassroots movement turned the Fed into a major national issue. And now we’re supposed to believe nothing can be done in the Senate? Or that even if it passes the Senate it’ll never be turned into law? There have been setbacks along the way, but this fight has enabled us to reach countless Americans about the Federal Reserve and educate them on the dangers it poses to our nation’s present recovery and future economic strength, allowing us to build our ranks and mobilize more Americans to push to audit – and then end – the Fed.
Critics would say we never should have been able to take key “Patriot” Act provisions to the brink of expiration during the last renewal fight, but we did. Or that we could even get close with bills like the Amash-Conyers amendment to defund NSA spying that came within a handful of votes of passing last summer, but we did. We shouldn’t have been able to beat back assaults on the Second Amendment on the federal and state levels, but our movement did (our Delaware C4L members can tell you a great story about that). We shouldn’t be winning local fights, defeating tax increases, thwarting the Internet Tax Mandate’s massive momentum, and training thousands of activists to be the most efficient and effective champions of liberty possible, but we are.
Think of how many said the message promoted by folks such as Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie could never carry the day. Yet there they sit in Congress because they refused to listen. Consider how many times Dr. Paul was told just to go along with everyone else, yet he ignited a Revolution.
Still it persists. Each time we take on the establishment, we’re told (especially by the establishment) “might as well quit now.” But should we stop fighting for liberty because government keeps growing bigger? Should we abandon the battle because a few politicians said so?
Change is hard. Change often takes a long while to achieve, as there are far too many benefiting just fine from the status quo. But press on we must, and charge forward we will, if we want to restore a stronger country with a vibrant economy, where civil liberties are respected, citizens are free to pursue their dreams without the crushing burden of overbearing government, and others are inspired by and drawn to its dedication to freedom.
What we have so far achieved, especially in such a short amount of time, is exciting. What we can still achieve in the future will be limited only by our persistence and our continued refusal to listen to those who like the status quo just the way it is.