Can We Afford Privacy from Surveillance? Do We Want To?
The extent to which we are subject to surveillance — the collection of information about us, by government, commercial, or individual agents — is in large part an economic question. Surveillance takes effort and resources — spend more and we can do better surveillance. Protecting against surveillance also takes effort and resources. Given the state of technology, the amount of effort and money each side expends determines what is surveilled and what is kept private. As technology changes, both the cost and the desirability of surveillance, and protection against surveillance, change. We can confidently predict that information technology and communication costs will continue to decrease, and capabilities to surveil and protect against it will improve.
What are the consequences for our privacy? Will we have a future with more or less privacy? Which do we want?
Jeffrey MacKie-Mason will be joining UC Berkeley on October 1 as University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer. For the past 29 years, Jeff has been a faculty member at the University of Michigan, where he was the Arthur W. Burks Collegiate Professor of Information and Computer Science, and also a professor of economics and a professor of public policy. For the last five years he has been the dean of Michigan’s School of Information.
Jeff has been a pioneering scholar of the economics of the Internet and online behavior and a frequent co-author with the Berkeley I School’s first dean, Hal Varian. He has also led the development of the incentive-centered design approach to online information services.