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Why Are People More Scared of Facebook Violating Their Privacy than Washington? (reason.com)
72 points by mtgx 1575 days ago | hide | past | web | 103 comments | favorite



I guess it's because theoretically the government is accountable to its citizens whereas Facebook is accountable to its shareholders, the citizen can exert some action against Washington via the democratic process, they have no action to take against Facebook other than not participating at all.

There's also the question of motive, Facebook exists to make money and there's the fear that the profit motive may outweigh its users privacy. The government can and has defended its actions in the context of keeping people safe.

I'm not defending any actions by Facebook or government, just trying to point out the differences.

What I'm more interested in is why the most passionate defenders of the second amendment never seem interested in government power grabs like this. Isn't the reason for the 2nd amendment to keep expansive government in check, at what point does government become a threat?


What I'm more interested in is why the most passionate defenders of the second amendment never seem interested in government power grabs like this.

Because many defenders of the second amendment aren't actually defenders of personal freedom, but are merely defenders of their cultural expressions (one of which is gun ownership).

See also the people who passionately defend the right of two consenting adults to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedroom, but then object if I want to pay someone $2 an hour to clean the bedroom. Or the people who defend the free speech of the New York Times Corp., but not the free speech of Citizens United, Inc.

Most people are merely supporting their tribe and don't actually buy into the principles they appeal to when making arguments.


>See also the people who passionately defend the right of two consenting adults to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedroom, but then object if I want to pay someone $2 an hour to clean the bedroom

While I agree with your general point about tribalism, this particular example is pretty silly -- you have to pretend to take the idiom literally for it to make sense.


Why is the principle of allowing people to engage in private acts that harm no one else "silly"?

I realize that most liberals consider it an anathema, but that's the point. People appeal to the principle in spite of disagreeing with it in basically all cases except gay sex and abortion.


Because that's not what they mean by "the privacy of your own bedroom". That usage very specifically invokes sexual freedom, and not privacy in general. If you want a more general discussion you should make that clear, and not try to play off of the particular words used in a more specific case.


How is paying $2/hr for the cleaning of the room harming no one? It is more complicated than direct and immediate harm, but (if you subscribe to modern economic models) it does indeed result in economic harm.


This argument can easily be extended to people's actions in the bedroom when no money is being exchanged. They can lead to pregnancy, spread of STDs, violence... and yet, I imagine, almost everyone supporting the minimal wage would vehemently oppose regulation of sexual activities by, for example, only allowing married couples to engage in them.

Right? No one here thinks that we should limit single motherhood by banning extramarital sexual relationships? Or the spread of HIV through anti-sodomy laws?

EDIT: OK, maybe I didn't write that clearly but both low wages and sex can lead to negative externalities. Why one should be strictly regulated and the other protected from any regulation?


Because the attempts to regulate sex are not based on some desire to reduce pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but are rather religious control over private life dressed up in friendlier colors.

Nobody has ever seriously attempted legislating away sex.


Wait, I thought the reference to "bedroom activities" was about homosexuality and/or general deviancy.


There are jobs that are illegal because the highest price people are willing to pay for them is lower than the minimum wage. The potential buyers and sellers of those services would not be harmed if they were legal—they would benefit.


Who benefits when you establish a class of people working for $2/hr? Last I checked that's $4,000/year, which puts you solidly in poverty.


This argument isn't going to go anywhere novel. The point is that such policies help some impoverished people make more, but they make other impoverished people make less.


People currently making $0/hr?


>Why is the principle of allowing people to engage in private acts that harm no one else "silly"

Because paying below minimal wage for other people's work harms the whole of society, and first and foremost the very person that agrees to work for you because he needs the money.

If you weren't allowed to pay as little as you want, then he would have at least got minimum wage, an amount considered somewhat fair by our society.

(The case that you would only offer employment if you could pay less than that, so he gets zero is mostly BS. Even if that was the case, society is better of without employers like you, than having people barely making a living in the jobs you could offer).


That's the point of the principle that two consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want in their own bedroom: that others may not approve for whatever reason. You believe (perhaps completely validly) that if someone chooses to work for minimum wage they are hurting themselves and possibly "all of society". This is exactly the same argument made by people who don't want people having whatever sexual relations they want in their own bedroom. You will point out that they are wrong and your points are right -- but that's the whole point! If we say "some things are not safe for two consenting adults to do in their own bedroom", then how is your opinion on what's safe any better than theirs? In both circumstances you are interfering with someone's private choices arguing that you are "saving" them from their own ignorance or circumstances. You differ only in the subset of allowable activities -- and thus dont really support the principle of the stance, but instead happen to be ok with a different set of controls. We don't allow people to do whatever they want in their bedroom because its safe, we do so because it is none of our business and we theoretically don't want a society where we need to go ask everyone's permission before doing things with your partner, regardless of what those things may be.

I'm not necessarily arguing for this (extreme) position, but I agree that it is disingenuous to argue that you stand for people's rights to do whatever they want in their bedroom, followed by listing things they can't do because you believe they hurt society. You can certainly have that position, and it is a valid position, but it is a different position.


>That's the point of the principle that two consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want in their own bedroom: that others may not approve for whatever reason. You believe (perhaps completely validly) that if someone chooses to work for minimum wage they are hurting themselves and possibly "all of society". This is exactly the same argument made by people who don't want people having whatever sexual relations they want in their own bedroom. You will point out that they are wrong and your points are right -- but that's the whole point!

No. The whole point is what is right and what is wrong.

Not if what is right is _consistent_ in situations that is not exactly the same.

The only same thing in those two situations presented is that there are "two adults" present.

In the case of accepting "minimum wage" the one agreeing is not even "consenting" in the same sense.

He is just doing something that he is _forced_ to do by hunger and lack of jobs.

Even if one "needs to have sex", it's not at all the same kind of "need" as needing to eat and feed/shelter your family.

The first is an option and a choice. The other is a necessity, and a leverage you can use of people to let them do degrading things.

From prostituting themselves to selling their kids.


Because paying below minimal wage for other people's work harms the whole of society, and first and foremost the very person that agrees to work for you because he needs the money.

If he were harmed, why would he choose to accept my offer?

Lets consider a different regulation - ugly people can't have sex. This is because sex with an ugly person harms the whole of society, and first and foremost the very person that agrees to ugly sex because he/she can't get anyone better.

If ugly people weren't allowed to have sex, they would at least exercise/clean up/etc to the point of non-ugliness, a level of attractiveness considered somewhat fair by our society.

(The case that some people won't become more attractive, so he/she gets no sex is mostly BS. Even if that was the case, society is better off without ugly sexual partners.)


If he were harmed, why would he choose to accept my offer?

The concept that you are describing is "rationality". If you do some light reading, you will find that reasonable people disagree that any human possesses or can possess it, especially in the case of economics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_choice_theory#Criticis...


If you intend for this to be an argument favoring the regulation of employment, note that it also applies to regulating sexual activities (humans are notoriously irrational about sex).


The concept of "rationality" applies to all reasoning that a human does. It is not constrained to one specific activity or another (sexual or employment or regulation).

Wikipedia>>>The "rationality" described by rational choice theory is different from the colloquial and most philosophical use of the word. For most people, "rationality" means "sane," "in a thoughtful clear-headed manner," or knowing and doing what's healthy in the long term. Rational choice theory uses a specific and narrower definition of "rationality" simply to mean that an individual acts as if balancing costs against benefits to arrive at action that maximizes personal advantage.


>If he were harmed, why would he choose to accept my offer?

Because he has to eat and you give him no other option (except not eating, which is not an option).

You have this concept that he could "shop around", but poor people cannot shop around. For one, those that would work for that kind of money don't have much bargaining power. They get what they can get. And if employers were allowed to pay them below minimum wage, they will do so. All of them (and even if some do not, their vacancies will be filled quickly exactly because of that).

So, either we correct the power imbalance (a man hungry and desperate for work and food and a guy offering work and willing to pay as little as he can) and settle a minimum amount to be paid, or we let those that have the luxury of offering work step on those having the necessity of getting a job to feed themselves.

>Even if that was the case, society is better off without ugly sexual partners.

Yes, and society if better of without poor people. Let's exterminate them. I see where you're coming from. I hope at some point you loose your job and security blanket and are forced to work minimum wage. Maybe throw in some medical bills too. If anything, it will give some perspective.


And if employers were allowed to pay them below minimum wage, they will do so.

This is silliness. Most employers pay well over minimum wage. If they did not do this, no employees would be willing to work for them. This is true in the US as well as in many countries where the minimum wage is so low as to be irrelevant.

Yes, and society if better of without poor people. Let's exterminate them. I see where you're coming from.

Huh? I just applied the exact same reasoning as you to a different field. But I guess it's easier to appeal to godwin than to actually use logic and reason.


>Huh? I just applied the exact same reasoning as you to a different field. But I guess it's easier to appeal to godwin than to actually use logic and reason.

You call "applying the same logic to a _different field_" ...logical?

As if eradicating el-cheapo employers is the same as getting rid of "ugly people"?

That's "logic and reason" to you? For one, the first is merely putting an end to a business practice, whereas the second amounts to racism and/or murder.

Different fields call for different thinking to be applied.

And what you call "logic" are merely "arguments". Only mathematic and predicate logic (both of which are well defined) can be applied the exact same way to different inputs, not mere arguments in a discussion. We might call them "logic" too, casually, but it's not at all the same.

Conversational "logic" is not "one size fits all". For example, what makes sense for pests (they destroy my flowers thus they must be exterminated so my garden is kept nice) doesn't make much sense for pets (even if they destroy the garden just the same).

>This is silliness. Most employers pay well over minimum wage. If they did not do this, no employees would be willing to work for them. This is true in the US as well as in many countries where the minimum wage is so low as to be irrelevant.

In the countries where "it's so low as to be irrelevant" you answered your own question as for why the pay more than minimum wage: because it's bloody irrelevant, so they don't care paying a little above it.

In places where minimum wage is _not_ irrelevant, OTOH, they do care, and they would pay well below it, if they could afford it.

That can be prevented in two ways: if there is a minimum wage law, or if there are enough jobs.

But I'm not talking about either situation -- I'm talking about when employers CAN get away with giving any kind of wage, because of lack of jobs or because some people have some specific issue and nobody would hire them (e.g ex convict).

Notice also how what you say invalidates your own argument. You try to present it as a non issue:

"Most employers pay well over minimum wage. If they did not do this, no employees would be willing to work for them. This is true in the US as well as in many countries where the minimum wage is so low as to be irrelevant"

whereas the whole thread started because you very well _do_ consider it an issue -- and want employers to be able to do so, without minimum wage law regulating against it.

The situation is clear: employers that CAN take advantage of below minimum wage (in the situations that I described) often do.


Are you better off by typing on a computer made by people that made less than minimum wage?


No, I'm not. I'm against cheap labour in general. And I always prefer places that pay their employees well, even if I have to pay some more.


I think that (or I wonder whether) you've touched upon the difference between personal vs. public freedoms, the latter of which we impose many regulations upon. Many people would object to a sub-minimum-wage job offer, but would be fine to pay friends/family/neighbors (including children) such amounts for odd jobs. Or I might slander someone I don't like within a small group of friends, and nobody would object to that; but the New York Times, which is sold for public consumption, is prohibited from publishing libel or slander.


>See also the people who passionately defend the right of two consenting adults to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedroom, but then object if I want to pay someone $2 an hour to clean the bedroom.

Maybe because the first case is a personal sexual affair, whereas the second is taking advantage of your position as someone with money that can offer employment to have impoverished people in need of a job working for a pittance.


I'd dispute your point, but there's no way this argument will be appropriate for Hacker News.


>> What I'm more interested in is why the most passionate defenders of the second amendment never seem interested in government power grabs like this. Isn't the reason for the 2nd amendment to keep expansive government in check

That is the party-line.

However, if you study American history, you'll see that this 2nd amendment propaganda doesn't square up with reality.

The only times guns were seriously used in an anti-federal-government uprising was during the civil war - but that was armed rebellion by the state "governments" and it was a war to defend the right to slavery. (yes, I know that some people describe it as the "war of northern aggression")

MLK talked about the long arc of history bending towards justice and that has undoubtedly been true in America. Today, native Americans cannot be massacred or driven into reservations, blacks cannot be enslaved to work in plantations, women have the right to vote and many more rights that were denied to them in previous centuries, gays have the right to not be arrested for being gay, Japanese-Americans have the right to not be arrested solely based on their ethnicity etc.

In all of these cases, freedom has expanded far beyond what America had in previous centuries. However, I think it is safe to assert that the 2nd amendment was absolutely irrelevant (in any positive way) in the expansion of any of these freedoms.


> The only times guns were seriously used in an anti-federal-government uprising was during the civil war...

Like many people, you are missing the role that personal firearms play in resisting tyranny. No one is claiming that a firearm can do anything against artillery, tanks, and fighter jets (much less chemical and nuclear weapons). The armed populace obviously cannot hope to mount an offensive coup. The point is that an armed populace cannot be occupied by a tyrannical government. Look at how difficult the occupation of Iraq has proved, and imagine how much more difficult it would be in a country with ten times the population, 20 times the land area, and nearly 30 times the number of small arms.


But look at how easy it was for Saddam to stay in power for decades despite a heavily armed populace.


And the ignorant and fearful keep marching in their parade of bloodlust and violence... while the rest of us keep burying the dead, unfortunate casualties in your paranoid experiment of personal rights and politics. Nothing but hypotheticals to compete with the hard facts seen in studies of other nations, the truth pales in comparison to the nightmare you wish we all lived in.


> hard facts seen in studies of other nations

give me one example of a time where gun violence went down after the government of a first world country imposed gun control


Since the gun buyback of 1996 and the banning of automatic weapons ad semi-automatic weapons, there have been no mass killings in Australia.

We'd be doing even better if we controlled hand guns.

Hope this gives a truth value to your existential quantifier.



How about in the United States, where homicides from firearms dropped dramitically after the federal law banning certain assault-weapons in 1994, bottoming out and climbing since the law's repeal in 2004?

Or how about the statistical analysis of gun homicides vs gun ownership in countries with a GDP of over $20k?

But why do I have to prove to you why having guns around is a horrible thing? We could argue to the death over the correlation and causation between guns, crime, money and murder and not make any sense of it.

At the end of the day, you're the one saying that yes, as a society, we should not only allow, but promote these devices whose sole purpose is to spit violence and extinguish life.

It is madness!!!


What does the I in IED stand for?


Guns were, however, used on a number of occasions against state governments and terrorist groups backed by state governments. The Battle of Hayes Pond (1958) is one notable example.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hayes_Pond

You should actually read a little history. You'll discover that gun ownership played a significant role in blacks gaining civil rights in the past century - most early gun control efforts were actually an attempt to disarm them.


Are you arguing that the intent behind the second amendment was not to keep the powers of the government in check or that it is no longer relevant in an age where peaceful rebellions have accomplished so much?


>> That is the party-line.

>> However, if you study American history, you'll see that this 2nd amendment propaganda doesn't square up with reality.

I love when people trot out the old "read your history" chestnut. I have this compilation saved for just such an occasion:

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (James Madison, The Federalist Papers #46 at 243-244)

"...to disarm the people - that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them." (George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 380)

"What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.... Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins." (Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment [ I Annals of Congress at 750 {August 17, 1789}])

"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms." (Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer (1788) at 169)

"No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." (Thomas Jefferson, Proposal Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334,[C.J.Boyd, Ed., 1950])

"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country..." (James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434 [June 8, 1789])

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States" (Noah Webster in `An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution', 1787, a pamphlet aimed at swaying Pennsylvania toward ratification, in Paul Ford, ed., Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, at 56(New York, 1888))

"...but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights..." (Alexander Hamilton speaking of standing armies in Federalist 29.)

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation. . . Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, in Federalist Paper No. 46.)

"Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people" (Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788)

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for few public officials." (George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 425-426)

"The Constitution shall never be construed....to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms" (Samuel Adams, Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 86-87)

"The great object is that every man be armed" and "everyone who is able may have a gun." (Patrick Henry, in the Virginia Convention on the ratification of the Constitution. Debates and other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia,...taken in shorthand by David Robertson of Petersburg, at 271, 275 2d ed. Richmond, 1805. Also 3 Elliot, Debates at 386)

"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence ... From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable . . . the very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that is good" (George Washington)

"The supposed quietude of a good mans allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside...Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them..." (Thomas Paine, I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 [1894])

Seems to me, history and the founders had a pretty good idea what they were up to.


> theoretically the government is accountable to its citizens

That's a big "theoretically".

Personally, Facebook bothers me much less, because I can and do opt out of Facebook


People are often inconsistent.

I suspect it's because weakening of the second amendment affects the public in an obvious and visible way while weakening the fourth amendment doesn't affect them immediately and is usually framed as necessary for defending them from outside attackers.

I suppose it's better for someone to defend one important aspect of the Constitution than none of them. An ardent gun-rights advocate who shrugs at this isn't much different from someone who is against unreasonable government surveillance but supports strong gun control measures.


Perhaps the US constitution isn't the be-all-and-end-all of political thought, and people have valid disagreements on which parts of it are important?


Why do you suppose that special interest groups lobby the federal government, rather than lobbying large corporations? It has nothing to do with accountability to citizens.


There is an attitude common amongst the more radical 2nd amendment supporters: that trying to keep the government in check is a lost cause, and they're merely biding their time until "the sheeple" finally open their eyes and get fed up, at which time they can have their uprising.

Like most views espoused by radicals on any subject, it is a load of crap that left rational thinking behind a long time ago, but it does help explain why you see an inconsistency in behavior.


> I guess it's because theoretically the government is accountable to its citizens whereas Facebook is accountable to its shareholders

This is a common characterization of the difference between business accountability and government accountability, and I think it is deeply flawed.

There are differences between accountability for sure, but to simplify Facebook's accountability to "its shareholders" is just too misleading. Believe it or not, Facebook is also very much accountable to its users. If users leave Facebook, it loses power and money. Facebook, in order to exist, must remain accountable to its users by keeping them happy enough to stay.

To reiterate, I acknowledge that the power structures between governments and businesses are different, but one cannot and should not ignore the fact businesses are accountable to the people too.


Facebook is accountable to its shareholders

Check their ownership structure and you may want to reword that.


Zuckerberg still owns over 50% of Facebook, right?


Which would make him a shareholder, ergo it is accountable to him.


That's like saying the chinese military is accountable to the chinese people since the government is full of chinese citizens.

(on second read--I can't tell if you're saying it's "accountable to shareholders" since the single majority shareholder is, indeed, a shareholder -- or -- if you're just agreeing with me. Anyway, it's a fun analogy.)


I agree about the 2nd amendment guys. If they say they care about the 2nd amendment because they want to be able to stop the government if it becomes too oppressive, then the 4th amendment should be the first thing they should defend, because the 1st and 4th amendment are the first things an oppressive US government would try to bypass. So these amendments are the first lines of defense, and they need to fight for them as hard as possible to protect them, if they really want to stop the government from becoming oppressive. But considering gun owners are usually Republicans, and Republicans are also usually the first to suppress the 4th amendment, there is some inconsistency there.


I think the sad true is very human, rooted in psychology: we can SEE facebook, but we do not see the government/Washington. People can relate way better with a danger when it is possible to see it, when you can feel it while it's present in front of you. You can SEE facebook and your data in the screen near their logo. From there to imagine someone looking at the same data (YOUR data) from within facebook, that is a jump that emotionally is very easy to take. On the other hand, even if you KNOW that the government is wiretapping everything, you don't have the emotional connection needed to see it as a danger. Of course you can understand how terrible it is, but the emotional link is -for most of us humans- not there. We just do not feel the danger "in our guts".


It's more annoying what Facebook does. Washington isn't showing pictures or information to our friends that we don't want them to see. It's assumed I imagine by most that the 'spying' into our activities is done for our safety - this can of course very quickly be turned against us, and abused.


Facebook may be more annoying but what the political ruling class in Washington is doing is far worse. I don't have a FB account because I value my personal security. I have this choice. With the government there's only the Hobson’s choice of moving out of the country. I foresee the government slowly ratcheting any remaining privacy out of existence.

- Obamacare is stripping off all medical privacy.

- Patriot act has stripped all financial privacy.

- Cameras are being installed in public places at an alarming rate tracking all of our movements.

- Obama gave the National Counterterrorism Center the authority to collect any and all data from anywhere. No warrants necessary.

- Indefinite detention without trial, even of US citizens.

What’s left? This is a Stasi wet dream.


All people want is to be safe. In order to do whatever they want, the powers that be need to feed fear to people. An enemy that threatens people's safety is needed, found, and fought. Whatever the cost is, people can feel safe again. You're going to see this pattern throughout history.

The question is... What comes next?


None of those things are even remotely true, but I don't see how pointing out the facts is going to dissuade you from believing conspiracy theories.


Your coping out. Put out your sources.


When's the last time Facebook took 30% of your paycheck and used the money to kill children on the other side of the globe with remotely controlled airplanes? When's the last time Facebook broke down someone's door and shot them and/or their dog because they had reportedly been burning the wrong type of plant? When's the last time Facebook used its clandestine paramilitary force to overthrow a democratically elected government and install a puppet dictator? When's the last time Facebook targeted and killed tens if thousands of civilians with conventional or nuclear weapons?


I'll engage with you if you make a reply stating the opposite, the good things that government can/do provide, even if could be done better - just to make sure I'm not wasting time.


It would be ridiculous to deny that government does solve some problems in society. My issue is with using violence to solve those problems, and I believe nonviolent solutions are just as ample and strictly more effective.


Oh, it's "Oversimplify as a form of argument"! I love this game!


Please, reveal to me the hidden complexity that makes all of those government actions okay.


The government hasn't killed tens of thousands of civilians with nuclear weapons since the founding of Facebook, so I think they're tied in that regard.


I'm not even bothering with "justified or not" yet, I'm noting things like this:

used the money TO kill children

"To" in this context implies "for the express purpose of". It may not have been your intention to do this, but it is a great example of why simplification of arguments is problematic- intentional or not, in the process of simplifying the issue you completely misrepresented the character of the issue.

(Unless it is in fact your stance that the government's express purpose w/ the "War on Terror" was the killing of children)


I did not mean that money is used for the express purpose of killing children. I only meant that money is used to buy weapons which are used in a manner that accepts a certain level of collateral damage, which can and has included children.


I am much more worried about Facebook, etc, violating my privacy than Washington, for three reasons:

1) A lot of the hand-wringing over Washington's privacy invasions are overblown. A lot of online commentators are playing fast and loose with the contours of the various laws in question. Sometimes the rhetoric is (ironically) downright Orwellian. Laws designed to restrict federal investigative authority are turned around to seem like they are expanding that authority. This is a great post by tptacek answering some of the points in the FISA debate: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4979925. Also, as a lawyer, I have quite a bit more faith and less paranoia about the various legal protections we have against the government.

2) I trust big corporations less than I trust the government, at least the federal government. Through history, the pendulum has swung back and forth on this issue, but I think right now the shoe is on the other foot. Your protections against your government really have never been stronger. Guantanamo has been a huge, wrenching scandal, even though it involves non-Americans captured in Afghanistan that are not even being held in the U.S. It is portrayed as our Soviet Gulags, but the place is literally crawling with attorneys (including many from prominent corporate law firms): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_attorneys. This is not a place where things are happening under the cover of darkness. At the same time, the economic power of corporations, relative to the rest of the economy, hasn't been stronger in generations, and the regulations and laws protecting you from them haven't been weaker in generations. This is not to say that I think corporations are evil. I don't. I think they're great. I also think the government is great. But I'm more wary of the people that have the most power and from whom I have the least protection.

3) It's a rational risk-weighted evaluation of the potential harms. Yes, getting detained indefinitely without trial and access to representation would be much worse than my employer getting a hold of my Facebook information, but I think that as a practical matter the latter is orders of magnitude more likely. Look at the credit reporting services. People these days can be denied jobs because they have bad credit. I think that sort of thing is far more likely to happen with social networking sites, than I am to get disappeared by the government for posting critical comments on online forums. It's totally rational to worry more about the former than the latter.


> Your protections against your government really have never been stronger.

Assuming you're talking about the USA, that is one of the more ludicrous claims I have read in a long time.


Yes, in the U.S. your protections against your government have never been stronger. The idea that we've seen a "chipping away" of liberties over time is an uneducated trope. In the 1940s, we indefinitely detained, without review, American citizens of Japanese descent on U.S. soil, and the Supreme Court upheld the action. In the 2000's, we tried to detain non-U.S. citizens captured in Afghanistan on a military base that wasn't even on U.S. soil, and the Supreme Court smacked down the administration three different times and the detainees all got lawyers.

The habeas jurisdiction of federal courts, which is the safeguard we have against the detention of American citizens, has never been stronger in the history of the country than it is today.


Note well that you do not have to be O.K. with what happened in Guantanamo Bay or with how the civil courts are used by the RIAA or how the CFAA is used against hackers to maintain the perspective that your rights in 2012 are stronger than they've ever been in recent memory.

I tend to assume that people with alarmist stances about online rights aren't old enough to remember that the Clinton administration attempted to criminalize encryption.


>In the 2000's, we tried to detain non-U.S. citizens captured in Afghanistan on a military base that wasn't even on U.S. soil, and the Supreme Court smacked down the administration three different times and the detainees all got lawyers.

Meanwhile, despite all the theatre, the same prison still operates and the same kind of things keep happening there.

So on top of the very same things we had in 1940s, we also have a "theatre show" about right nowadays. So, the same, plus hypocrisy. This is supposed to be good?

You also forgot tons of other ways people are not protected against the government (from the Patriot Act, to warantless wiretaps, to mass electronic surveillance of mail and web activity, etc) that didn't exist in the past.

Oh, and as for that 40's example? That was at a time of OPEN WAR, with hundreds of thousands of American _common_ citizens fighting, and big domestic consequences to the USA. Nowadays Iraq and co are run like private wars, with the professional army and private contractors, that have little impact on the country (except the expense and some casualties of professional troops), which people only ever care about for ethical reasons.

What would have happened to civil rights if the US was actually involved in a war of the WWII scale and impact is not something anybody can describe.


The main concern about Guantanamo isn't the treatment of prisoners. It's the fact that people are being held without trial—making the comparison to the Gulags rather apt.

Also, you're correct that people usually care less when injustices are meted out to non-Americans, but isn't that repugnant?


The Gulags were jails for Russians. Guantanamo is a military prison for non-American military prisoners.

As for justice--justice is relative. I don't think there is anything particularly unjust about the idea that Americans have a lot more protections from the American government than non-Americans. In any case, the distinction is one quite deeply embedded in our law, and a lot of the handwaving you see about infringements of liberties, etc, completely ignores the fact that the U.S. government has always been allowed to do certain things to non-Americans that it can't do to Americans. Indeed, the protections that non-American detainees enjoy today have never been stronger.


This seems like a "might makes right" sort of argument. Since the American government is much more powerful than the Afghan government, we can mistreat Afghans. If we did the same thing to British citizens, there'd be quite an uproar. I think we should aim to treat everyone the way we'd want to be treated.


It's not so much a "might makes right" argument, but a "people in my community are more important to me than people in other communities." One of the fundamental purposes of the U.S. government is to protect us from them. That's why we have different rules governing the relationship between us and the government and them and the government.


I don't have the same definition of 'them' that Halliburton's DoD has, though.


Because lots of people spent their most formative years in government schools, not Facebook schools.


So, it's like because of ...government propaganda in schooling?

Strangely that haven't made people in the sixties question the government any less, despite school being even more strict at the time...


There's no point in calling it "government propaganda," as if it's some secret conspiracy or something. It's really not a secret. Children spend 12 or 13 years learning the government's version of its own history. Even on this thread, how many comments are verbatim talking points from public school curriculum? "The government gets its authority from the people (social contract)," "we have a voice in government," "government serves us," "the constitution limits the power of government," "the atomic bombs saved millions of American and Japanese lives," "the goal of the government's foreign policy is to spread and protect democracy," etc. How many people repeat these lines that have been hammered into their brains, and how many actually think about how meaningful and truthful they are?


I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but I don't think it's that simple.

The government is both a kind of "autonomous entity" with serving self-interests AND something somewhat controlled by the public (not just by voting: also by the mere fact that it involves thousands of people, has to balance different interests, is bounded by specific procedures, it needs a level of constent for it's actions, etc). To put it this way, from all the entities out there, the government is the more accountable. You think the government serves some big interests (big corporations etc?). It sure does. But a country only at the mercy of private interests, without a mediator like a democratic government, would be intolerable. Actually it would be like what it's in some Banana Republics, where the "government" is essentially a front for corporations and private interests.

That said, the government (any government) is also the scum of the earth, especially went left to rule without vigilance. Sponsors and big interests come into play and bureaucracy wants to increase its reach and rule as far as it can.

And of course government wants to justify itself and its actions, hence the "official version of history", in which the nuclear bombs "ended the war" (whereas Japan, a nation collapsed and willing to sign a peace treaty was nuked just so that US could showcase the new bombs and send a message to the Reds for the post-war state of things). Or in which "Pearl Harbor" was ..."unprovoked" (whereas the US presidency did all it could before it happened to ensure a war with Japan).

Of course the Japanese have their own "official history", in which they didn't do anything bad in Manchuria and Korea (where they enslaved, raped, torture, and genocide-like killed thousands of people).


The only issue I have with your characterization of government is that you make too much of a distinction between "the government" and any other organization of individuals, such as a corporation or business. What you call a democratic government is still less accountable than a normal capitalistic business, and I'll argue that the government is strictly less accountable, because the government is the only organization (with a few potential counter examples) that can and does use a massive campaign of organized violence to maintain and exercise power. The ability to vote is no more powerful in affecting government as the ability to choose who to engage in commerce with is in affecting businesses. But businesses don't get to use violence to earn revenue, public schools to indoctrinate children (which is way more effective than advertisements), welfare and retirement campaigns to incentivize government dependence, etc.


>The only issue I have with your characterization of government is that you make too much of a distinction between "the government" and any other organization of individuals, such as a corporation or business.

In my opinion, they are not even close. A corporation or a business is accountable to its shareholders but not to society at large. And it's mostly accountable to shareholders in the "get us more money" way, and not the "be ethical and do good" way. A corporation is only accountable to society in as much as they are accountable to the law (passed by the government).

Note that in most cases you cannot even "vote with your wallet".

For one, because the harm they do might happen thousands of miles away from where consumers are (as it often happens) so buyers don't care. For another, because even if the harm is domestic, it doesn't necessarily affect the same people as those buying (e.g, treating workers badly or dumping toxic waste in a river in South Dakota doesn't directly affect consumers in the rest of the 50 states).

>What you call a democratic government is still less accountable than a normal capitalistic business, and I'll argue that the government is strictly less accountable, because the government is the only organization (with a few potential counter examples) that can and does use a massive campaign of organized violence to maintain and exercise power

The difference is that the government must balance millions of expectations and demands, whereas a corporation does not. A government must at some deegree satisfy it's voters, must keep the main opposition at bay, must be accountable to foreign powers (diplomatic agreements, ecological treaties etc), cannot favor a corporation or a lobby too much because of counter-action of opposed lobbies, etc. Plus there are binding documents it has to follow to some deegree, from the constitution to common law.

A company has far fewer such restraints. Especially a global one.


People from the sixties now run the government -- are they questioning it?


99% of people from the sixties are not running the government.


True, but more than half of them voted for it.


So? They dit it because they rather not have a Republican president. Voting is about getting the lesser of two evils.


We have strong protections (constitution) and recourse (elections) against the government. While not perfect by any stretch they are far better than what we have against Corporations.

Government is much more transparent compared to corporations.

For me, it is more insidious to be exploited for profit than to be spied on.

Scale and applicability, as mentioned in the article. Facebook and other Corporations "watch" much more of us than government does.


"We have strong protections (constitution)"

Which history has shown can be ignored, chipped away, sidestepped, circumvented, reinterpreted, and otherwise abused when it is convenient to do so.

"recourse (elections) against the government"

Except that in America, the elections are a choice between one set of fascists and another set of fascists. Voting third party is the only real recourse in America, but the major parties have set things up so that third party candidates are marginalized and remain obscure.

"While not perfect by any stretch they are far better than what we have against Corporations."

Better? Corporations cannot send paramilitary teams to invade your home. Corporations cannot punish you at the airport. Corporations cannot hold in against your will. You are free to ignore Facebook; you are not free to ignore the government.

"Facebook and other Corporations "watch" much more of us than government does"

The real problem with corporations is that they become a tool used by the government to circumvent the constitution:

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1475524


> We have strong protections (constitution) and recourse (elections) against the government. While not perfect by any stretch they are far better than what we have against Corporations.

Call me selfish, but there really isn't a "we" when it comes to having my privacy and rights violated. What consolation is it if 50.01% of society approves of my rights being violated? I have absolutely no recourse—voting is statistically not worth the trip to the ballot, and that's even if there was a candidate or issue that I genuinely approved of with a reasonable chance at winning the election. In fact, unless you derive utility from the act of following politics, rational ignorance is a perfectly valid excuse for not even researching the candidates or the issues. The odds of my vote affecting an election, even if I'm in the most hotly contested county in the most hotly contested state, is not worth the hour it takes me to read about the issues and travel to the voting booth.

> Government is much more transparent than corporation.

I can't conceive of a context in which that statement is true. Which corporations have massive clandestine paramilitary organizations with a long history of assassinating foreign politicians overthrowing democratically elected governments? Which corporations are visited by countless lobbyists intent on bribing leaders to change policies? Which corporations have massive police forces deployed country-wide with the express goal of violently preventing you from burning certain plants?

> For me, it is more insidious to be exploited for profit than to be spied on.

That's a fine opinion for you to have, and you're lucky that the one organization with the funding, equipment, and social license to commit heinous acts with little limit just so happens to do things that bother you the least.


I sympathize but also find it kind of ironic. In the end, whats the worst a company will do? Show you increasingly relevant ads? Leak your private photo's? Perhaps your address to someone you didn't want to know it?

I realize there's a lot (more) to fear, but by comparison, what can the government do? What are governments doing around the world? And I'd argue that for many people, the fear isn't what Facebook does with the data, but what they could hand over to the gov't.

I"m not worried about what the government is doing today. But when you look at recent history, or even at what other governments are doing today, its hard for me to understand why people aren't more concerned with the government than with Facebook.

> Government is much more transparent compared to corporations.

I think many would disagree with that.


Better question where are all the mighty constitution defenders that go nuts over gun control? Congress just crapped all over the constitution with FISA (4th amendment) and with NAtional defense authorization act (5th amendment) in the name of national security. Yet often the same people oppose any type of gun control citing government tyranny.

How does this make any sense? Dazed and confused.


Hang on there. If you're going to count amendments crapped on by congress, at least count it on both sides.

A lot of Obama supporters here on HN seem to be hesitant to call him out, but I'm going to. None of the bad stuff you cite congress as doing could have happened without the co-operation of Obama and a senate controlled by Democrats. They are all crapping on our rights.

http://www.ibtimes.com/obama-expected-sign-fisa-amendments-a...

http://investorplace.com/investorpolitics/what-obama-slipped...


What part of my comment blames one side? I fully agree that democrats are to be blamed for FISA and NDAA just as much as republicans, if not more. If and when Obama signs them into law, he will share the blame as well. He has been consistently missing in action or on the wrong side on these issues. But my main point is not the congress but the public, media, etc. there is very strong defense of second amendment yet fourth and fifth gets dumped on and it's hardly noticed. I consider these changes as much bigger threats to liberty than ability to have guns, and perplexed that this view is not more widely shared.


When the government reads your email in some underground bunker 2000 miles away, you don't know about it. When the government comes to confiscate your guns, you damn well do know about it.


I wish more people would ask this sort of question. Not that reading about the latest spook news or reading about people crusading for government reform isn't at least marginally interesting. Certainly it is. But put this in perspective in terms of actual impact on your life. Generally, the NSA or any enforcement agency does not send me junk mail and spam. They don't try to influence me to pay for things I don't need; they don't put my reputation at risk through some bizarre concept of "sharing" (as in giving people's personal details to corporations or whoever might be scraping Facebook); they don't generally annoy me and care less about it. That's not their job. They do not set out to do that. The government is not sitting on a mountain of personal information, run by 20 somethings and "in search of a business model".

When you distill things down to their essence, Facebook is a next generation junk mail company. (Despite how things may appear to the naive user, they are not the medium. They do not enable connectivity, they merely utilise what is available. They are not a network; they use a network: the internet; they are a website with access control.) The amount of information they have is like nothing any direct mail company has ever seen. The level of invasiveness of marketing with this much personal information at the ready is potentially devastating; and when all is said and done, Mark Zuckerberg may have less scruples than the worst of the worst direct marketers sending you junk mail. And he can have a much larger effect on your life than someone filling your mailbox you junk mail.

The government has to follow rules. They have to be accountable. In theory, at least. By contrast, Facebook, like a direct marketer, does not have a similar mandate of representation and accountability and Facebook will do everything in its power to try to bend and break the rules. There is very little to reign in Facebook.


Because most people are either closet Marxists or closet Fascists?


The CIA has a backdoor into Facebook's data anyway.

I think people are (or should be) more concerned about collusion between corrupt corporate and governmental entities than they are when either one is corrupt because they are stronger and less easy to take down when they are actually working together. Makes people realize the fact that the reality of the society is actually very gloomy.


"The CIA has a backdoor into Facebook's data anyway."

Don't forget the NSA!


Facebook was not obviously identified as an "establishment". It was "ours". We don't expect much from the government: we even know that some security measures are part of it's job. But Facebook was supposed to be cool, friendly, the dorm friend next door.


Facebook we feel like we've got influence. Does anyone still believe that they have ANY say in what happens in the government?


Not according to this: http://dashes.com/anil/2012/11/facebook-makes-it-official-yo...

Not that users ever had a say in the first place.


The U.S. government already knows everything about me. My friends and future employers don't.


availability bias.


because the government used to be accountable




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