TOC Data Secret Kleptomania Your Turn

May 19, 2011

There are persons of influence who move in exalted circles and are often seen in the company of presidents. The foreign ministers of the most powerful countries on earth take their recommendations to heart. Their accomplishments, their very pronouncements drive the Western economies while China is understandably wary about their reach.

They live in affluence, money always at the ready for executing their wildest dreams. One could even say they print money at will. No wonder their livestyle seems so strange to us, hoi polloi.

And so when they cannot resist to grope and grab what we hold most private, we meekly accept it as life as we know it.

The mainstream media is content to relay bland remarks, sustaining the fallacy that, if society wants to prosper, this is an inevitable trade-off to be paid. When some incident is too serious to go unreported, "press advisors [do] a remarkable job of damage limitation". As Jean Quatremer puts it bluntly (*), the "journalists are paralyzed". Even when some blogger alerts the public the current situation is neither sustainable nor necessary, "there [is] nothing in the written press, on radio or television".

Who will accuse them in public? Who would believe the obscure victim when they give their word of honor nothing untoward happened?

Is there material evidence left behind? They will claim they had the victim's consent, even though such a consent was extorted under the cloak of deceit or the threat of retaliation. Is the breach too visible to be swept aside? They will utter superficial apologies while blaming their indiscretions on how their very actions had been programmed in a way for which nature bears the responsibility together with bad luck, not their own will.

Will Justice ever catch up with them? What should we hope for?

Paraphrasing Martin Wolf (**), we must remember such persons often offer the rare combination of "bold decision-making, effective use of influence and competence". Removing them from their positions may end up to be as cruel a punishment on us, collectively, as on them, personally. Would the hapless Athenians want to repeat their reckless execution of the very leaders who had won for them the battle of Arginusae (1)?

Yet, if the perpetrator is allowed to keep position and hence influence for the good of society, how real can the punishment be for the individual and can it truly spare long suffering society? Only fundamentalists see no dilemma, despite the fact our two-stroke engine of progress, combining individual spirit of enterprise and sense of social solidarity, keeps creating them.

Could the more distant past offer a solution? King David is the archetype of those who lead nations to their peak and yet cannot control themselves.

He could not help but had to take a census of his people. For this sacrilegious appetite for personal data which belonged to God, for what would today be a violation of our privacy, he was not deposed. But he acknowledged he had to be personally punished. "It is I who have done wrong. But my people, what have they done?"

And so, when he found the means for his atonement were in the hand of Araunah, a representative of the previous rulers of Jerusalem, David refused to accept it as a gift for his taking. "No, I must pay for it, for I cannot offer to the Lord my God holocausts that cost nothing."

The heads of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, to name a few, are greater abusers of our eprivacy than King David ever was. Let them keep their jobs and continue to foster our Information Age. But they should acknowledge their sins and accept punishment.

It just happens ePrio is ready to play Araunah's role as it has the means of preserving one's privacy on the Internet while one still benefits from personalized interactions (2). Actually the cost of atonement will not be so much in the implementation of an abuse-free solution like ePrio's, as it is in the need to retrofit the prior plant, which increases by the day. The more the sinner waits to reform his ways, the more he adds to his own burden.

Most readers may have remembered another of King David's wayward appetites. David of course also broke God's commandments wholesale in availing himself of Bathsheba and sending her husband to a sure death. But such compulsive behaviors are outside of my remit, Besides would anyone today listen to Nathan the prophet? King David would sure lose his job and soon enough the Israelites their freedom.

The world cries out for justice. But is it justice to condemn one sin griveously while continuing to keep a blind eye on the other?

Philippe Coueignoux

  • (*) ... A tale of tittle-tattle, taboos and Torquemada, by Jean Quatremer (Financial Times) - May 18, 2011
  • (**) . The eurozone after Strauss-Kahn, by Martin Wolf (Financial Times) - May 18, 2011
  • (1) In this naval battle, the victorious generals had failed to rescue sailors in disabled vessels from drowning. The Athenians lost the war one year later.
  • (2) for more details, see US Patents Number 6,092,197 and 7,945,954 and US Patent Application 2009/0076914. For an implementation, please contact ePrio Inc.
May 2011
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