What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

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MirrorField MirrorField's picture
What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Again, here are some notes for my own campaign. Comments / constructive criticism are welcome.

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What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Much of what 20th century people would understand as privacy is dead, but some shreds still remain. Given the transhuman nature, these small remnants are valued even more and violating them is considered highly reprehensible, illegal and garner real bad PR.

Public surveillance systems are generically known as "Big Brother" for culture-historical reasons and although there have been several expensive memetic campaigns to promote more neutral terms these campaigns have either backfired or proven mostly ineffective. Most of the hypercorp PR departments have simply given up on the issue, although new campaigns are tried every now and then. (Culture Note: Although many would prefer 1984 forgotten to history, it remains a popular and "edgily transgressive" read despite curious facts like eg. Experia never touching it despite potential profitability. The Anarchist-produced XP adaptation is considered especially educational and banned in many more oppressive jurisdictions.)

As noted in EP p.49, most habitats have at least minimum surveillance everywhere for dangerous air leaks, fires, explosions, etc. The Level of surveillance normally goes up from there, depending on local law. More conscientous habitats leave public surveillance to AIs specifically programmed to monitor only things that might endanger habitat or people and to not divulge anything else without proper authorization, eg. court order. Most places also store their public surveillance data only for few weeks or months, as the amount of data collected is tremendous and data itself is considered sensitive, so keeping it around is problematic.

Also, in relatively liberal jurisdictions countersurveillance devices are included in any self-respecting housecleaning closet and regularly used. Most homes also include a "bug trap" at entrance (hat tip to Vernor Vinge) designed to catch any "bugs" people might inadvertently carry. There is a constant war going on with surveillance- and countersurveillance equipment designers and you can never be absolutely certain about the effectiveness of your countersurveillance... Something that keeps Stellar Intelligence, Gorgon Defense Systems, Direct Action and their myriad competitors happy with steady business.

In more repressive regimes (eg. Jovian Junta), the torrent of public surveillance data is thoroughly analyzed and datamined by specialized AIs and secret police, although AIs are notoriously bad at handling eg. poetry (hat tip to Charlie Stross) and as a rule of thumb proper panoptikon surveillance requires one AGI or preferably human per monitored subject. (That "Real World Naivete" trait can really throw a spanner into works in surveillance operations.) Unless you're not against TITAN technology, in which case you might as well give up. Even Junta rarely stores majority of the public monitoring data for longer than few years due to same reasons as more liberal jurisdictions, though they may hold onto "highlights" like recordings of riots or unstable periods indefinitely.

While basically everyone expects there are unknown listeners to any discussions in any public place, there are ways. One of the most popular is "holding hands" and forming an encrypted, hardwired link via skinlinks: Everyone can see they're chatting privately, but intercepting such discussion is extremely hard. Likewise, many people exchange One Time Pads (easily generated by mesh inserts and swapped via skinlink handshake), which allows for basically uncrackable encryption unless compromised via side-channel attacks, rubber-hose cryptanalysis or similar. Only repressive regimes try to interfere with these practices.

TEMPEST-screened and Faraday-caged conference rooms are available, many hypercorps maintain their own and their rental is a steady business offered by eg. restaurants where term "Private Cabinet" has developed some new connotations. These places are normally EMP:d and swept with guardian nanoswarms regularly, usually just before use. Of course, reliability and trustworthiness of rental arrangements varies... And a nasty scandal can easily and permanently ruin reputations (or worse). One should also note that legality of these arrangements varies by jurisdiction and some places insist on Big Brother presence. Such screened rooms are usually rather small, stark places which eschew smart furnishings which are easier to corrupt and can easily conceal unpleasant surprises; these are not places where you relax and kick back, these are places where you work, focus and pay attention.

Most people have private Muse-managed "inner space" virtualities, tailored to personal taste. Some are entirely private, accessed only by ego and possibly muse, while some are used for private meetings with friends, loved ones and other close persons. Also, while "Virtual Seraglio" and "Digital Harem" may be clichés, anonymous surveys estimate that at least 40% of population has one, archived behind best information security one can manage. In reputable versions characters in such simulspaces are run by owners' muse (acceptable practice), but some people without conscience may buy their digital concubines from Nine Lives (very, very illegal and reprehensible).

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Excellent post!

I think there are three dimensions to privacy. One is the technical level of ubiquitous surveillance - how densely can things be monitored? The second one is who gets to monitor who - the authorities watching the citizens (who are banned from watching back) or everybody can look at everybody else? The third is the social understanding of what is properly private - is it OK to watch everything, or are there certain things best left private?

Most environments will practically/physically allow a certain level of monitoring, but not more. It is hard to get the bugs to work on Venus, there is too much desert on Mars and putting bugs into all the nooks and crannies of Phelan's is simply not feasible. Similarly running AI to monitor what is going on requires resources, and even if they do a good job the truly important monitoring is all about seeing connections - which AIs are bad at. One can try networking it all together, but after the Fall big centralized AGI surveillance systems have a well-deserved bad reputation...

The surveillance/sousveillance balance depends a lot on how open a society are. I expect that many of the major habitats of the inner system are actually pretty open - the Planetary Consortium and Morningstar Constellation do want their cyberdemocracy. That corporate misdeeds and corruption get discovered is a feature, not a bug - it keeps the society evolving. However, plenty of habitats are more on the authoritarian side and try to clamp down on sousveillance (often using privacy laws) while maintaining surveillance for security reasons.

Also, the degree of monitoring likely correlate with rep in societies with sousveillance. Characters with very high rep will be constantly observed ("OMG! Mr Spade is eating breakfast at the next table with Warren Jasper III!!!"). Might be another way of keeping extreme rep scores down.

The social aspect of privacy is what people actually think should be kept private. Virtual Seraglios are embarrassing perhaps more because of what they tell about the bad taste of their owners than their actual content. Bathroom visits are kept private in some cultures but not others. Nakedness may have lost some of its old stigmas since morphs are now often status symbols - sure, my morph might be middle-aged, but it is a biomorph, rustbuckets! :-) Leaving a trysting couple alone or watching them, keeping out of people's economy, whether to log whenever a citizen leaves a monitored area or not, etc. are all determined by the local social mores and are always under some negotiation.

In small habitats privacy is impossible for practical reasons, but people do their best to pretend to not see many things - and thanks to AR and mental training can actually avoid it. In autonomist habitats there is often an undercurrent of suspicion when somebody withdraws from the public: they might be doing something selfish (and hence damaging). On Extropia some people try to achieve privacy through intellectual property (you must pay to perceive their copyrighted appearance), usually failing spectacularly (which may have been their goal all along).

The intersections between the practicality, directionality and social agreements on privacy make fascinating possibilities. They also provides endless fun as systemtrotting characters find themselves in environments where it may be very hard to keep secrets, or where they discover that what they considered to be the important secrets are unimportant and vice versa.

"Sure, you are a piece of military AGI equipment with unlicenced nanoswarm components. There is nothing wrong with that. But you DO NOT smuggle porn into our habitat!"

Extropian

Dry Observer Dry Observer's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Arenamontanus wrote:
The intersections between the practicality, directionality and social agreements on privacy make fascinating possibilities. They also provides endless fun as systemtrotting characters find themselves in environments where it may be very hard to keep secrets, or where they discover that what they considered to be the important secrets are unimportant and vice versa.

"Sure, you are a piece of military AGI equipment with unlicenced nanoswarm components. There is nothing wrong with that. But you DO NOT smuggle porn into our habitat!"

And they wonder what it is about us that makes Exsurgents go so utterly, utterly crazy. ;)

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MirrorField MirrorField's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Quote:

I think there are three dimensions to privacy. One is the technical level of ubiquitous surveillance - how densely can things be monitored?

With EP technology in human-shirtsleeves enviroment? Very densely. Up to rudimentary non-invasive medical scan level, including EEG, blood pressure, heart rate, et cetera. Of course, when this enviroment changes the density parameters also change (downwards as a rule of thumb, I'd say.)

The problem, even (or especially) in totalitarian panoptikon is analyzing this torrent of data properly.

Quote:

Also, the degree of monitoring likely correlate with rep in societies with sousveillance. Characters with very high rep will be constantly observed ("OMG! Mr Spade is eating breakfast at the next table with Warren Jasper III!!!"). Might be another way of keeping extreme rep scores down.

Absolutely. Someone with 80+ F-rep probably cannot even sneeze without pundits making style analysis or disappear for more than few hours before people start wondering where he has gone. Someone with 80+ g-rep probably needs a platoon of bodyguards 24/7 and is on close-watch list of all nearby police organizations even if he's "just a simple businessman". 80+ r-rep is basically Vint Cerf or Edward Teller... And many security people will be keeping eye on him simply because of what he's holding in his head. And so on. Only i-rep is an exception to this, I think. Mostly.

Quote:

The social aspect of privacy is what people actually think should be kept private. Virtual Seraglios are embarrassing perhaps more because of what they tell about the bad taste of their owners than their actual content.

One of the problems with low privacy is that people will know too much about your personal tastes, preferences, memeplexes and so on. Which makes you more vulnerable to external manipulation. For example, someone who breaks into your "virtual seraglio" and porn stash has a pretty good idea how to start tailoring a honeytrap aimed squarely at you; even if your tastes are perfectly acceptable to your society. (Hat tip to Adam Warren & Livewires #3).

There is an old prison quote: "They only have your body behind the bars". Mental privacy is one of the privacy modes that still remain, to a degree; IMHO an important reason (among others) why mental violations are so harshly condemned and punished. This is also why people have "inner space" virtualities stored inside their mesh inserts: While they may have a reputation for hosting virtual debauchery enviroments, they're also places where people keep their embarrassing baby photos, XP recordings of their first kiss, that jeremiad against some hypercorp policy he never had nerve to post, that collection of music videos he still likes and wants to play despite the fact that they're more unfashionable than disco...

ObNote: All legit VR systems include a "dependency principle" that monitors your body and it's enviroment, pulling you out of VR if there is any physical danger; usually including your muse monitoring for subtler threats. Any other approach would be suicidal. I'd think that "being trapped in VR while your body is in danger" rates pretty high on list of common nightmares in EP.

Unity Unity's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

I know I'm resurrecting an old thread here, but I need to make this point:

You cannot run VR in your mesh inserts alone, so 'inner space' virtualities can't work if you were thinking of running them on that. You need full on servers for that.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Unity wrote:
You cannot run VR in your mesh inserts alone, so 'inner space' virtualities can't work if you were thinking of running them on that. You need full on servers for that.

Of course, some VR servers might be small enough that they are implanted or part of your clothing.

While the big server described in the book can run serious full sensory simulspaces for thousands of users, it is not hard to imagine much smaller computers running few-user VR or at a lower resolution. My estimate for a full-sense VR near indistinguishable from reality is ~100 teraflops, while the requirements for running an upload is likely around 100 times larger or more (this is from my uploading whitepaper). Since you can run forks and infomorphs on credit-card sized devices, having a VR server on your person ought to be eminently possible.

Extropian

CodeBreaker CodeBreaker's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

Arenamontanus wrote:
Unity wrote:
You cannot run VR in your mesh inserts alone, so 'inner space' virtualities can't work if you were thinking of running them on that. You need full on servers for that.

Of course, some VR servers might be small enough that they are implanted or part of your clothing.

While the big server described in the book can run serious full sensory simulspaces for thousands of users, it is not hard to imagine much smaller computers running few-user VR or at a lower resolution. My estimate for a full-sense VR near indistinguishable from reality is ~100 teraflops, while the requirements for running an upload is likely around 100 times larger or more (this is from my uploading whitepaper). Since you can run forks and infomorphs on credit-card sized devices, having a VR server on your person ought to be eminently possible.

Supported by the Core rulebook by the way, at least to an extent.

"Smaller simulspaces capable of hosting a smaller amount of users can be run on a smaller distributed network of linked devices." Page 240 Core.

Although that could instead be intended to mean smaller, linked server devices. It is said later that personal devices straight up cannot run simulspace programs.

P.S, might I ask how you came to the 100 teraflop number? Isn't that absurdly low given today's supercomputer capabilities? Or am I woefully misinformed about what we are computationally capable of with modern technology?

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: What remains of Privacy in 10 AF

CodeBreaker wrote:
P.S, might I ask how you came to the 100 teraflop number? Isn't that absurdly low given today's supercomputer capabilities? Or am I woefully misinformed about what we are computationally capable of with modern technology?

I did a very rough estimate in chapter Environment simulation. The real issue isn't computational power, but being able to get enough detail into the environment and integrate the very different rendering, sound, tactile and chemical aspects.

Extropian