Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paper: Panoptics in Privacy v. Piracy

For those familiar with the writings of legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham the title of this blog may ring more than a bell (though the relationship is somewhat coincidental). I've been working on an essay that partly integrates Bentham's/Foucault's writings on panopticism and the hybrid of public and private speech control online. (To put it in a nutshell...) I'll probably put it up on SSRN when finished, but in the meantime make sure to take a look at Sonia Katyal's Privacy vs. Piracy (SSRN). It researches similar (legal) grounds and provides lots of insights on online information control through code and its implications for privacy. Just a snip from the panoptic musings, though that is a small word for this very interesting paper of a solid 125 pages:
While the panoptic metaphor has been crucial to understanding disciplinary processes in real space, I would argue that it is especially useful when applied to the effects of surveillance on the Web. In a peer-to-peer environment, the traditional distinction between private and public space readily collapses, leaving open a minefield of possibilities for invasion and observance. The identities and activities we adopt in cyberspace can become transparently visible, compromising privacy and identity. Many of our activities in cyberspace— communications, files, stored pictures, online activities—can be monitored, revealed, and recorded at the same time. As a result, the file sharing revolution renders certain files stored on individual computers potentially accessible, from the most personal to the most public information, enabling “invasion without physical invasion.”


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