Privacy Lessons From Ashley Madison

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Got invited to appear on HuffPo Live to discuss the arguments in my Medium post on the topic:
We ended up talking about cybersecurity regulations, which was great but I wish I’d had more time to argue against them.
But meantime a conversation on Facebook has me thinking about whether the ability to hide facts about ourselves (thoughts, behavior, feelings) from other humans is A. Necessary, in any sense and B. On-net good or bad.
The argument FOR the on-net good of the ability to hide facts about ourselves from others I find most compelling is that in a society with structural oppression the ability to hide facts about yourself is an important bullwark against oppression.
Acknowledging the merit of that argument, I still argue that the ability to hide facts about ourselves is on-net bad because
1. While hiding ourselves may help individuals avoid oppression it does less to fight systemic oppression than transparency.
2. Transparency helps fight oppression by bringing it to light.
3. I consider connecting with other humans is a higher order good than avoiding oppression.
4. Human connection is positively correlated with transparency.
But, I’m open to conflicting arguments and new information.


  1. Henry Vandenburgh

    I’m not sure we can afford being sexually outed yet. My theory is that virtually everyone has elements of our private sex lives or desires that can’t bear public outing. Most of my friends and partners probably think I, for example, am a relatively transparent person. And I am. But some of my sex life is known only to me, largely because of the ideation and occasional practices sometimes involved. Are they harmful to me or anyone? I don’t think so. But we should take a lesson from the Petraeus affair and Wikileaks: It’s far easier to “get” someone for deviant sexuality than for something substantive. Feminism hasn’t been any help. Much of this agenda seems to be about reining in sexuality and bringing back Victoriana. So, with respect, you first.

  2. Mac

    How do you reconcile an assumption or obligation of transparency for the oppressed with the lever of opacity (the structure in “structural oppression”) for the oppressors?

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