Another lesson from BP

What does that have to do with privacy? People are beginning to realize that various Internet programs have engendered privacy problems they never imagined. So we now ask Google and Facebook and all variety of Internet programs to limit their unwanted incursions on our privacy. But once the cat is out of the bag (like the oil out of its containers), we can’t ever truly get it back in. And we are forced again to rely on the wrongdoers to correct their wrongdoing with new technologies to patch up old ones.

It isn’t working with the BP oil disaster, and it won’t with the Internet. Lesson: Faith in technology to cure problems created by technology is misplaced. That reality doesn’t mean that we should not make progress through technology — treating diseases with machines, for example. But we better be sure those machines do not create other — sometimes greater — problems than those they were created to cure.

With regard to privacy, people must learn that if they communicate over the Internet, there are risks that other than those with whom they intend to communicate will have access to their communications. They have responsibility to be prudent in their communications. The technology that is used to transmit communications has responsibilities, too, to respect the ground rules of its clientele. We’ll need better privacy ground rules, and the ethicists and lawmakers will have to establish them. We better not rely only on the potentially wrongdoing instrumentalities.


Visit www.RonaldGoldfarb.com.

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