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Politics of secrecy - Peter Hentges

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July 13th, 2007

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06:20 am - Politics of secrecy
Charles Stross, in an interesting article on the BBC's web site, posits a future in which nano-scale diamonds are used as data storage. Using two stable isotopes of carbon to make up such a crystal would allow, by Stross's estimation, "a video and audio channel, with running transcript and search index, for six billion human beings for one year" to be stored in a little over a pound of material.

Stross goes on to talk about how this will be a great boon to future historians, who will have a wealth of information that we simply have no access to about our predecessors. The ephemera of daily life will be available for scrutiny in ways we cannot imagine. Stross invokes our favorite security guru in saying that dealing with privacy issues around the storage of all this data will be a huge legal issue.

I agree with Bruce and Stross on that account but I think that it goes further than that.

We've already seen the political ramifications of the ability to say "I don't recall" or to mysteriously "lose" hundreds of email messages. If Stross is correct about the ubiquity of this kind of storage and its capacity, those scenarios will disappear. If one person cannot recall or deliberately erases a record, there will be fragments of what is being investigated stored in the on-going record of every person even peripherally involved.

What will politics look like when there are no more secrets?

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Date:July 13th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
There was a panel at Wiscon that particularly impressed me about one fact: all the storage capacity in the universe doesn't help unless you also have a lot more processing speed. If you can store the name of every person you've ever met, it doesn't help when you meet one of them on the street unless you have very fast access to that database. If you're still plowing through that database at slow speeds, you either end up having to say "Um, er, ah" for a minute or you go based on your old reliable grey matter. That may become the excuse of the future: "I haven't had time to process it" or "I don't have sufficient access privileges on that database".
[User Picture]
Date:July 13th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
Very true, in fact one of the methods of information obfuscation that is fairly common these days is the info dump. When asked for information, the responding party simply dumps every possible piece of data on the requestor, making sorting and processing the information a burden that takes longer than is feasible.

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