Freedom requires security

The other day I outlined the progression of how wearables will be integrated into everyday society in the coming years. Several readers raised very important issues about privacy.

Whenever you are dealing with very large groups of people — whatever the historical era — you can no longer rely on family connections and tribal kinship to guarantee trust. So if you are dealing with anything of value, you need a way to protect it.

Otherwise everyone ends up in a state of fear. Societies that are socially broken are often characterized by roving bands of marauders going into homes and stealing at will. Which leads to the very opposite of freedom.

In other words, in any large and heterogeneous population, if you are going to have doors, then you need to have locks. Freedom requires security.

We already have the technology required to protect against the sort of unwanted tracking, monitoring, reporting, surveillance, etc. that Sally and Adrian warned about in their thoughtful comments. One-way encryption can already provide the required level of security and anonymity.

The problem is not a lack of technology, but rather a general lack of awareness of the importance of putting that technology in place. Alas, humans tend not to deal with problems until those problems slap us in the face.

We don’t think about terrorism until we’ve been bombed, and we don’t think about cybersecurity until we’ve been hacked. It’s just human nature to ignore the open barn door until after the horse has gone missing.

Fortunately, the introduction of the sort of pervasive wearable technology that I described will be gradual. There will indeed be incidents, breaches of privacy, theft of property, but initially not at a mass scale, because the technology will only gradually come up to speed.

The first incidents to reach general consciousness will therefore work as a kind of trigger to our societal immune system. As our citizenry becomes aware of the stakes, we will learn to understand the difference, in the context of wearables, between a locked door and an unlocked door.

And then people will start buying locks. Good ones.

One thought on “Freedom requires security”

  1. Freedom requires Trust. Trust and Security are different, but not mutually exclusive–nor are they mutually inclusive. In our Thing Theory paper (Applin and Fischer 2013:, we describe a system for the IoT by which lower level sensors are brokered by Trusted Smart Agents (Thing Agents) that in addition to monitoring low level network connections, are also paying attention to building relationships with humans in the form of TRUSTED relationships. This dynamic, to achieve cooperation, require us to forfeit a bit of privacy in order to gain what benefit having a smart agent would provide in this scenario. In our paper, we suggest that Thing Agents, then negotiate on our behalf with other trusted networks. We don’t need locks so much as we need truly trusted entities managing our data for us. Yes, those entities (agents, in our paper) will use our data, mine it even, on our behalf, not theirs. However in our paper, they are trusted agents. The real issue for me in this, is would there ever be a company ethical enough to provide that trust? Not Apple, Not Google, dear Lord not Amazon, either. Who will resist the data temptation to become a true trusted ally, and thus, provide security?

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