Recently, I came across a New Yorker article titled "Taking Back Your Privacy," featuring "Moxie" Marlinspike, a key figure behind Signal. According to Moxie, privacy is indispensable for both social change and experimentation. His view suggests that without privacy, we risk being pigeonholed by our publicly shared information, a characterization that's often difficult to escape.

For instance, let's say I make a controversial tweet. "I hate Trans people." I'm immediately labeled based on that tweet, and this label may persist, regardless of context or whether the sentiment was an offhand remark. However, is it accurate to claim that we inherently become what we express?

Can't we offer further explanations to contextualize a statement, allowing for a better understanding of one's views? Although this approach opens us up to critique, it also provides a platform for dialogue and growth.[1]

Another aspect worth considering is the potential misuse of information by malicious entities. The inception of Moxie's encrypted messaging work coincided with the Arab Spring, a period when oppressive governments frequently exploited information to undermine their opponents. But do we have concrete evidence that secure messaging promotes experimentation that leads to more democratic outcomes? 

This question is not intended to undermine the importance of privacy or secure communication. Instead, I'm trying to understand the necessity of privacy in the context of social experimentation and change. (Ben Frankly, for instance, willfully sent "secrets" from France though he knew he was surrounded by spies.) I'm looking for examples that clearly illustrate how private experimentation can lead to widespread public benefit. If you have any insights or thoughts, I would love to hear them.
 

  1. ^

    For an example of re-contextualizing of public sentiment, listen to BBC's Great Lives: JS Mill episode where Max Mills of "sick Nazi orgy" fame view contextualizes his branding.

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1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:56 AM

The tone here suggests insincerity of willingness to change beliefs, which is why I'm personally not engaging with the proposed discussion.

(A comment like this will get one of two things: Actual surprise from an author who lacked the tools to frame the discussion in a way that suggests receptivity to good-faith conversation, or anger from an author who knows on some level they're actually just looking for the sensation of winning a fight.)