10.13.2005So I ran an informal poll in D&D, mostly because it was a slow day. My set up was way too targeted, but the results are sort of interesting, so I thought I'd share.
Would you give up your anonymity to an artificial system?
Yes 29 16.11%
Yes, but only to a system I trust 60 33.33%
No 77 42.78%
Luddite 14 7.78%
I qualified my question in the following way:
1) I am thinking about cases like Gmail, which reads your mail for content to target advertising and so on. But for the purposes of this thread, lets assume the hypothetical artificial system tracks radically more information about your actions. It reads all your email and tracks your online activity (including chat logs, browsing habits, purchases, etc). Just to make the case more extreme, lets assume this system is part of your cell phone (or some other electronic device people carry around with them everywhere), and also tracks your personal habits- where you go to eat and shop, what you buy, your daily routine, what kinds of media you consume, what kind of girls you are attracted to, and so on. Just assume the technology for tracking this information exists.
2) You are guaranteed that no human will ever see this information. Again, just assume this technology exists and is tamper proof. Your info is encoded in a format totally unreadable by anything but this system. Lets also say that the information is only associated with you indirectly by some complex cryptographic algorithm, so that if anyone were able to hack the system, there would be no way for them to associate the information with your physical body.
3) Assume the way this information can be used is tightly regulated. For the purposes of this thread, lets assume that the only use of this information is for advertisment targeting. It can't be used against you by the government for legal purposes, the information cannot be sold or traded or used by anyone other than this advertising system, and the penalty for trangressions is death of the shareholders of the company and their extended family. In other words, assume there are no economic incentives for abusing this information except for explicit advertising purposes.
It seems to me that we enjoy our right to privacy for two basic reasons: We don't want people to know stuff that we don't want them to know, and we don't want our secrets to be used against us for someone else's advantage. In a sense, the above system is using the information against you, by targeting advertising in order to get you to buy shit you otherwise wouldn't have bought. But assuming that this is the only way the information can be used, are you still protective of your privacy when it is a machine, and not a human, that knows what you are up to?
The following is a representative sample of the responses:
Sure although I don't think that this is a terribly hypothetical thing or that we really have much choice in the matter.
I put no, but I must admit I use gmail. I dont exactly trust any profit driven system but I dont use my email for important documents or secrets. Although I must admit google does seem pretty benevolent which just confuses me.
Bass Concert Hall said:
Voted yes. In fact, under the standards Eripsa stated I would be happy to disclose the same to another human being. If the information will never be dissemenated into the larger society or used for anything but advertising I have been forewarned about (assuming that the advertising is private, so that other people can't infer things from the ads I'm sent), then have I really given up my privacy? The information that person has is impotent, because he can't use it against me (except in a manner I've agreed to), and he can't spread it to others who could.
Also, I love big brother, please don't kill me.
No because I am not comfortable with the idea of my existence having little meaning aside from my belonging to certain target markets--even if it is true.
I voted no because, after reading the OP a few times, I don't see any apparent benefit for participating in such a system. Even if no human would see my information, the ability for an artificial system to peer into my daily life simply to direct targeted advertising to me doesn't seem like a goal worthy of my involvement.
They were basically right, the example was a bad one. So I changed it thusly:
What if, instead of advertising, the information was used by a credit card company to determine your credit rate. Again, it isn't used by anyone or anything else, it is simply a tool the system uses to evaluate your reliability and trustworthiness and so on, so it knows how much to safely charge you for borrowing money on credit.
So there is an advantage, if you behave well, to adopting this system, because you might get a better credit rate on average than the normal person.
Would you use such a system?
But by that time the thread was pretty much dead.
What do you think? Specifically, what do you make of the difference in poll numbers between option 1 and 2, given the qualifications I gave?