Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Tag: immanuel kant

Holistic and Pragmatic Approaches to Privacy Theorization

theoryandpracticeImmanuel Kant’s essay “On the Common Saying: ‘This May be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice'” argues that theory is central to understanding the world around us and that, moreover, attempts to say that ‘theory doesn’t apply to the world as such’ are generally misguided. Part of the reason that Kant can so firmly advocate that theory and reality are co-original emerge from his monological rationalism, but at the same time time we see him argue that the clearest way to bring theory and practice into alignment is with more theory – rather than adopting ‘parsimonious’ explanations of the world we would be better off to develop rigorous and detailed accounts of the world.

Parsimony seems to be a popular term in the social sciences; it lets researchers develop concise theories that can be applied to particular situations, lets them isolate and speak about particular variables, and lends itself to broad(er) public accessibility of the theory in question. At the same time, theorists critique many such parsimonious accounts because they commonly fail to offer full explanations of social phenomena!

The complexity of privacy issues in combination with a desire for parsimony has been a confounding issue for privacy theorists. Nailing down what ‘privacy’ actually refers to has been, and continues to be, a nightmarish task insofar as almost every definition has some limiting factor. This problem is (to my mind) compounded when you enter online, or digital, environments where developing a complete understanding of how data flows across systems, what technical languages’ demands underlie data processing systems, and developing a comprehensive account of confidentiality and trust, are all incredibly challenging and yet essential for theorization. This is especially true when we think of a packet as being like post card (potentially one with its content encrypted) – in theory anyone could be capturing and analyzing packet streams and data that is held on foreign servers.

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When Does Legal Publicity Punish Citizens?

publicpunishmentI use Facebook. I blog. I am a registered member of various online services, as well as several offline ones. Google, Facebook, several IT forums, credit card companies, my bank, and my employer (to name a few) can develop a fairly good picture of what I do and where I go on a regular basis. They can predict what I can, and likely will, do. While these issues are important, and I continue to write about them, for this post I want to attend to public documents. Specifically, I want to think about the implications of making legal decisions and court transcripts publicly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Welcome to Law, Online

As mentioned I use Google. I also use a series of other search engines, as I’m sure many others do. Some are specialized for journal articles, others for books to borrow, yet others for books to buy, and so on. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I also search for law cases to read up on (yes, I realize that makes it sound like I have too much time on my hands. It’s for research purposes, really!). Members of the Canadian public can request access to judgments that have been made in a Canadian court; while it may cost the first person to request the transcript a few dollars, subsequent visitors will face negligible costs where costs are imposed at all. Digitized judgments are increasingly placed online for major search engines index and which members of the public can access them at any time. This is done in accordance with precedent – citizens have always been able to read transcripts of court cases by visiting the court where the judgment is kept, finding the documents, and sitting down and reading them. The digitization of such documents (the argument goes) is just a natural extension of past systems of public use.

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