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Sun Microsystems to public: fuck you!

Sun Microsystems (and corporate America) could care less about your privacy. Less privacy = more profit! A chilling vision of the future in which corporations anticipate (and sell you) your every need.
Sun Microsystems to public: fuck you!
Sun Microsystems to public: fuck you!
The Washington Post
"The Case Against Absolute Privacy"
by Scott McNealy
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2001; Page A15
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A89273-2001May28.html

Any company that doesn't properly safeguard people's personal information will suffer the same fate as a bank that doesn't safeguard people's money. It will go out of business. But privacy is not always desirable -- and absolute privacy is a disaster waiting to happen.

Take medical records. If you're in an accident, do you want an ambulance driver to be able to access your medical records online? I think you do. Do you want everybody to? No.

Properly administered, the online environment offers more privacy protections, not fewer. Online, you can encrypt things and provide conditional access. You can know where your files are and who's looking at them through audit trails. Try that with a paper file.

I know medical records are a hot button for a lot of people, and I agree they need to be protected. But it would be a mistake to lose sight of the real benefits of sharing information about ourselves. One of the chief benefits, to use a more routine example, is personalized service. In exchange for a little information, you can get an online experience that's more in tune with your interests and needs. I have agreed to let my car company, for instance, track my every move through GPS satellites. Some people might consider that an invasion of privacy, but I find it comforting to know that, should my air bag deploy, they know where I am and can send help.

I'm convinced that we've barely scratched the surface on this one. Someday soon you could find yourself in a strange city and your Web-enabled wireless phone will be able to recommend a nearby restaurant based on your fondness for French, Italian or Mexican cuisine -- and then make your reservation for you. It could even recommend a movie based on what you liked and didn't like in the past -- and, by the way, it's playing three blocks away, starts in half an hour and only a few tickets are left, so would you like to purchase one now with your credit card?

Those are just two examples of how specific needs will be met in specific circumstances -- many more are possible. The point is, for that level of service, most people would gladly reveal their personal preferences, as long as they feel certain the information won't be misused. On the Internet, even more than in other areas of our lives, trust is the real currency. Squander what you have and you'll find out how hard it can be to get more.

So far the industry has done a pretty good job of regulating itself. Most companies now post formal privacy policies on their Web sites and allow visitors to have a say in how information about them is used.

That just makes good business sense, but I recognize that it took some prodding from the watchdogs in the media. The media could also start rewarding companies who have learned how to offer both consumer protection and personalized service. Maybe some enterprising magazine will start publishing an annual list of the companies with the best policies and practices. The Privacy 500, perhaps.

The writer is chief executive of Sun Microsystems Inc.

be afraid; be very, very, very afraid 30.May.2001 18:52

Josh

>Someday soon you could find yourself in a strange city and your
>Web-enabled wireless phone will be able to recommend a nearby
>restaurant based on your fondness for French, Italian or Mexican cuisine
>-- and then make your reservation for you. It could even recommend a
>movie based on what you liked and didn't like in the past -- and, by the
>way, it's playing three blocks away, starts in half an hour and only a few
>tickets are left, so would you like to purchase one now with your credit
>card?

---

This is scary on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. One, the question is never raised that does anyone really WANT to live in a such a future? A future where your every need is taken care of for you in advance, in anticipation of what you're most likely going to do based on previous decisions. A future where spontanous actions exist only in which of a set of computer-pre-selected products one wishes to select and consume.

Two, that such technology would be used only to further tighen the grip of corporate-forced consumption onto the public. Nowhere do you see "you find yourself in a strange city and based on the current weather prediction of sun you get the location of the nearest public park to loaf in and enjoy the afternoon" because of course that would not push consumption.

And three, the fact this this guy has more power and influence over the future of computers and technology than we could ever dream of. We don't want his vision of the future? Too bad, we're getting it anyway.

Good article, kudos to whoever posted it.


just what i've been looking for all of my lif 30.May.2001 19:09

tasha

"But it would be a mistake to lose sight of the real benefits of sharing information about ourselves. One of the chief benefits, to use a more routine example, is personalized service. "


just what everyone needs to survive
personalized service
more reason not to walk up and meet
a complete stranger and share ideas
that is the true origin of sharing information.
giving and receiving is a man to man thing.

Keep a Class Perspective... 30.May.2001 19:42

PJD

The violation of privacy for commercial gain is vile of course.

However, please remember, for each bourgeois person with that wireless web-enabled phone directing them to a movie or restaurant, there are dozens of people utterly discarded by, or consigned to serve, the capitalist system, not by mindless consuming, but by slavery under wages just enough to keep them alive.

shall I wipe your ass, sir? 31.May.2001 02:23

greg

>... recommend a nearby
>restaurant based on your fondness for French, Italian or Mexican cuisine
>-- and then make your reservation for you.

Yeah, I agree, this kind of personalized service turns people even less self-sufficient,
eventually Darwin-ing out the ability to locate a restaurant without the help of
Microsoft. People don't even know how to fucking read maps anymore, because
they just get directions from computers.

For those of us who like to travel in 3rd world countries, it's especially funny,
because that Web-enabled wireless phone won't work worth a shit in many
countries. Good thing anyhow, some of us don't want to see any cell-phone-toting
yuppies when were kickin' it in Islamabad or Kashgar or wherever.

>However, please remember, for each bourgeois person with that wireless web-enabled
>phone directing them to a movie or restaurant, there are dozens of people utterly
>discarded by, or consigned to serve, the capitalist system, not by mindless consuming,
>but by slavery under wages just enough to keep them alive.

Good point. Consider too, about which restaurants will show up in these web-generated
listings. Probably the well-known restaurants, or maybe only ones that have webpages
with Sun ad-banners. The really good cheap and not-so-fancy ethnic restaurants
are (by my guess) less likely to be recommended. This will further segregate the
'wired' from the 'un-wired'. But there is a good side to that, as those of us who have
the time and patience to search out cheap and good places are less likley to be
surrounded by cell-phone wielding arrogance.

Along this same thread of personalized service, I once envisioned a scary future (and
who knows, maybe some sick puppy is already planning it), that preys on the
already-terrible debt levels of Americans. Take the concept of push vs. pull
technology on the Internet, and expand it to consumers. It is basically a pull
system, where consumers buy stuff of their own will, pulling it into their possession.
But imagine what would happen when marketers decide to 'push' products to
consumers, based on previous spending patterns and current product ownership.

Take this example:
There's Joe Blow sitting at home, and a new, larger TV arrives, and is charged to his
credit card - because the marketers knew what kind of TV he had, and thought
it was time for him to upgrade. I bet they'll have some good spin for promoting
this too, like "surprise gifts", only their not gifts, since you pay for it. So a couple
months later, they take another look at Joe's records - they know that he buys a lot
of meat (from his Safeway Club card records), but Joe's records show that his last
barbecue purchase was 6 years ago, time for a new one!! Then two weeks later
Joe will be totally surprised when he finds a new barbecue arriving at his doorstep.
I suppose any marketers that do this would have to allow for returns, stuff that people
didn't really want, but since this is not only "immediate gratification" but "surprise
immediate gratification", people may not return that much stuff. It's true, the
consequences of this are sick, but I for one would not be surprised if we see this
in the future.

Obligator Slashdot pimping 31.May.2001 02:31

Mark Bialkowski mbialkowski@home.com

 http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/05/29/1432247

A lot of good shots at McNealy. That "zero privacy" quote is going to haunt his ass for the rest of his life, with good reason. I've already taken to faking information online and blocking cookies whenever possible due to the amount of spam I receive whether I "ask" for it or not.

I put "ask" in quotes, because to me a company like, say, Real, giving you five opt-out checkboxes asking you to give them the "right" to hand all of your entered information, and whatever info they pull off your hard drive, to the highest 50 bidders, is not really asking as much as harassing and hiding true intentions. Next time you install a piece of software that asks for a whack of personal info, pop open a network monitor and watch for any suspicious outgoing connections. Real was busted a year and a half back for sending unspecified types of information gathered directly from users' hard drives. One childrens' game sent information back home on installation even though it didn't even ask the user for personal info or permission to send information! Search Slashdot archives for the above stories; I'm too lazy at this point to do the digging myself. Tip, iceberg.

I have no reason to buy McNealy's vision of people freely giving up privacy for convenience without worries, because software manufacturers have proven time and time again that your privacy is worthless in the face of being able to sell information to data miners, whether you give permission or not, even whether you know information's being compiled on you or not. It's a sick situation where a CEO tries to convince Joe and Jane User he really does care about privacy, and maybe the corporate media should do something to browbeat companies into some form of "voluntary" privacy acceptance, just give me a shitload of personal location, demographic and financial information and I won't do anything unethical with it, as far as you know. I swear, I get the image of sheep being led to slaughter...


better still 31.May.2001 16:19

Josh

Thanks for posting that slash-dot URL, I had been looking for the source of that quote to make sure it wasn't taken out of context (it wasn't!).

And here's an idea -- better still, your wireless PDA notes the day of the year and if election time automatically casts your votes for you based on previous "decisions" you've made.

<shudder>