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  • There is an entire genre of YouTube videos

  • devoted to an experience which

  • I am certain that everyone in this room has had.

  • It entails an individual who,

  • thinking they're alone,

  • engages in some expressive behavior

  • wild singing, gyrating dancing,

  • some mild sexual activity

  • only to discover that, in fact, they are not alone,

  • that there is a person watching and lurking,

  • the discovery of which causes them

  • to immediately cease what they were doing

  • in horror.

  • The sense of shame and humiliation

  • in their face is palpable.

  • It's the sense of,

  • "This is something I'm willing to do

  • only if no one else is watching."

  • This is the crux of the work

  • on which I have been singularly focused

  • for the last 16 months,

  • the question of why privacy matters,

  • a question that has arisen

  • in the context of a global debate,

  • enabled by the revelations of Edward Snowden

  • that the United States and its partners,

  • unbeknownst to the entire world,

  • has converted the Internet,

  • once heralded as an unprecedented tool

  • of liberation and democratization,

  • into an unprecedented zone

  • of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.

  • There is a very common sentiment

  • that arises in this debate,

  • even among people who are uncomfortable

  • with mass surveillance, which says

  • that there is no real harm

  • that comes from this large-scale invasion

  • because only people who are engaged in bad acts

  • have a reason to want to hide

  • and to care about their privacy.

  • This worldview is implicitly grounded

  • in the proposition that there are two kinds of people in the world,

  • good people and bad people.

  • Bad people are those who plot terrorist attacks

  • or who engage in violent criminality

  • and therefore have reasons to want to hide what they're doing,

  • have reasons to care about their privacy.

  • But by contrast, good people

  • are people who go to work,

  • come home, raise their children, watch television.

  • They use the Internet not to plot bombing attacks

  • but to read the news or exchange recipes

  • or to plan their kids' Little League games,

  • and those people are doing nothing wrong

  • and therefore have nothing to hide

  • and no reason to fear

  • the government monitoring them.

  • The people who are actually saying that

  • are engaged in a very extreme act

  • of self-deprecation.

  • What they're really saying is,

  • "I have agreed to make myself

  • such a harmless and unthreatening

  • and uninteresting person that I actually don't fear

  • having the government know what it is that I'm doing."

  • This mindset has found what I think

  • is its purest expression

  • in a 2009 interview with

  • the longtime CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, who,

  • when asked about all the different ways his company

  • is causing invasions of privacy

  • for hundreds of millions of people around the world,

  • said this: He said,

  • "If you're doing something that you don't want

  • other people to know,

  • maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

  • Now, there's all kinds of things to say about

  • that mentality,

  • the first of which is that the people who say that,

  • who say that privacy isn't really important,

  • they don't actually believe it,

  • and the way you know that they don't actually believe it

  • is that while they say with their words that privacy doesn't matter,

  • with their actions, they take all kinds of steps

  • to safeguard their privacy.

  • They put passwords on their email

  • and their social media accounts,

  • they put locks on their bedroom

  • and bathroom doors,

  • all steps designed to prevent other people

  • from entering what they consider their private realm

  • and knowing what it is that they don't want other people to know.

  • The very same Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google,

  • ordered his employees at Google

  • to cease speaking with the online

  • Internet magazine CNET

  • after CNET published an article

  • full of personal, private information

  • about Eric Schmidt,

  • which it obtained exclusively through Google searches

  • and using other Google products. (Laughter)

  • This same division can be seen

  • with the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg,

  • who in an infamous interview in 2010

  • pronounced that privacy is no longer

  • a "social norm."

  • Last year, Mark Zuckerberg and his new wife

  • purchased not only their own house

  • but also all four adjacent houses in Palo Alto

  • for a total of 30 million dollars

  • in order to ensure that they enjoyed a zone of privacy

  • that prevented other people from monitoring

  • what they do in their personal lives.

  • Over the last 16 months, as I've debated this issue around the world,

  • every single time somebody has said to me,

  • "I don't really worry about invasions of privacy

  • because I don't have anything to hide."

  • I always say the same thing to them.

  • I get out a pen, I write down my email address.

  • I say, "Here's my email address.

  • What I want you to do when you get home

  • is email me the passwords

  • to all of your email accounts,

  • not just the nice, respectable work one in your name,

  • but all of them,

  • because I want to be able to just troll through

  • what it is you're doing online,

  • read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting.

  • After all, if you're not a bad person,

  • if you're doing nothing wrong,

  • you should have nothing to hide."

  • Not a single person has taken me up on that offer.

  • I check and — (Applause)

  • I check that email account religiously all the time.

  • It's a very desolate place.

  • And there's a reason for that,

  • which is that we as human beings,

  • even those of us who in words

  • disclaim the importance of our own privacy,

  • instinctively understand

  • the profound importance of it.

  • It is true that as human beings, we're social animals,

  • which means we have a need for other people

  • to know what we're doing and saying and thinking,

  • which is why we voluntarily publish information about ourselves online.

  • But equally essential to what it means

  • to be a free and fulfilled human being

  • is to have a place that we can go

  • and be free of the judgmental eyes of other people.

  • There's a reason why we seek that out,

  • and our reason is that all of us

  • not just terrorists and criminals, all of us

  • have things to hide.

  • There are all sorts of things that we do and think

  • that we're willing to tell our physician

  • or our lawyer or our psychologist or our spouse

  • or our best friend that we would be mortified

  • for the rest of the world to learn.

  • We make judgments every single day

  • about the kinds of things that we say and think and do

  • that we're willing to have other people know,

  • and the kinds of things that we say and think and do

  • that we don't want anyone else to know about.

  • People can very easily in words claim

  • that they don't value their privacy,

  • but their actions negate the authenticity of that belief.

  • Now, there's a reason why privacy is so craved

  • universally and instinctively.

  • It isn't just a reflexive movement

  • like breathing air or drinking water.

  • The reason is that when we're in a state

  • where we can be monitored, where we can be watched,

  • our behavior changes dramatically.

  • The range of behavioral options that we consider

  • when we think we're being watched

  • severely reduce.

  • This is just a fact of human nature

  • that has been recognized in social science

  • and in literature and in religion

  • and in virtually every field of discipline.

  • There are dozens of psychological studies

  • that prove that when somebody knows

  • that they might be watched,

  • the behavior they engage in

  • is vastly more conformist and compliant.

  • Human shame is a very powerful motivator,

  • as is the desire to avoid it,

  • and that's the reason why people,

  • when they're in a state of being watched, make decisions

  • not that are the byproduct of their own agency

  • but that are about the expectations

  • that others have of them

  • or the mandates of societal orthodoxy.

  • This realization was exploited most powerfully

  • for pragmatic ends by the 18th- century philosopher Jeremy Bentham,

  • who set out to resolve an important problem

  • ushered in by the industrial age,

  • where, for the first time, institutions had become

  • so large and centralized

  • that they were no longer able to monitor

  • and therefore control each one of their individual members,

  • and the solution that he devised

  • was an architectural design

  • originally intended to be implemented in prisons

  • that he called the panopticon,

  • the primary attribute of which was the construction

  • of an enormous tower in the center of the institution

  • where whoever controlled the institution

  • could at any moment watch any of the inmates,

  • although they couldn't watch all of them at all times.

  • And crucial to this design

  • was that the inmates could not actually

  • see into the panopticon, into the tower,

  • and so they never knew

  • if they were being watched or even when.

  • And what made him so excited about this discovery

  • was that that would mean that the prisoners

  • would have to assume that they were being watched

  • at any given moment,

  • which would be the ultimate enforcer

  • for obedience and compliance.

  • The 20th-century French philosopher Michel Foucault

  • realized that that model could be used

  • not just for prisons but for every institution

  • that seeks to control human behavior:

  • schools, hospitals, factories, workplaces.

  • And what he said was that this mindset,

  • this framework discovered by Bentham,

  • was the key means of societal control

  • for modern, Western societies,

  • which no longer need

  • the overt weapons of tyranny

  • punishing or imprisoning or killing dissidents,

  • or legally compelling loyalty to a particular party

  • because mass surveillance creates

  • a prison in the mind

  • that is a much more subtle

  • though much more effective means

  • of fostering compliance with social norms

  • or with social orthodoxy,

  • much more effective

  • than brute force could ever be.

  • The most iconic work of literature about surveillance

  • and privacy is the George Orwell novel "1984,"

  • which we all learn in school, and therefore it's almost become a cliche.

  • In fact, whenever you bring it up in a debate about surveillance,

  • people instantaneously dismiss it

  • as inapplicable, and what they say is,

  • "Oh, well in '1984,' there were monitors in people's homes,