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Focus on Freedom

Communication Fluidity and the Obstacle of Privacy Claims

It appears that large numbers of people operate under the premise that, unless they explicitly give their permission to another to use information they have provided, information is private - not to be used by the receiver. This so-called "right" of privacy is most vehemently claimed with regard to repeating the words of the information giver, including hir (his/her) identity. Rarely is there a challenge to the assumption that there exists an agreement between the giver and receiver of the information. Likely those who do not agree simply go along with the usual demand that privacy is "understood as a right". Even more rare is there an insistence that there must be agreement by both parties prior to the initial transmission of the private/confidential information. I am challenging this widespread assumption that there is a logical basis for the notion that it is beneficial to keep all interpersonal communication private; on the contrary, I am convinced that such a practice greatly impedes the fluidity and value of communication. In addition, I remind everyone of the fact that an agreement can only be mutual and, because, by nature, information transfer cannot be undone, I insist that this agreement must actually precede any transmission of information.

Information, whether obtained visually, audibly, or through the lesser used senses, is within the brain of the receiver upon its receipt to be used consciously and unconsciously from that point on. It can never be truly forgotten, though portions of it may fade or be less readily accessible to recall with time or lack of use. This last is highly individualistic, ranging from the extreme photographic memories to virtual "teflon-recalls" (upon which nothing sticks). Exactly how much of what a person reads or is told (or learns by way of tactile or olfactory sensations) is not the issue. The information has been received and cannot be expunged by the receiver at will or on command (likely not even by the use of hypnosis or drugs).

Despite this physiological fact that information received becomes part of one's mental content, large numbers of people will foist information onto others verbally or in writing and then often immediately follow it with the demand, "Don't tell anyone" or "Don't let anyone know that you know this". The first is usually viewed as a requirement that the receiver not repeat the information, or possibly not in a manner that can be traced to the informant. The second statement would actually require that the receiver not be affected by the information, even if s/he does not tell anyone. This expectation that information will have no effect on the receiver is faulty; all information is data and a person's mind (the mental content and its neurological system substrate) is modified with every input and access of it.

More commonly, however, the teller simply assumes that the receiver will not repeat or in any way refer to the information provided. Questioning this assumption of the informant is generally met with poor logical reasoning or none at all. Paul Wakfer (my husband and partner in all) had a side exchange on this subject in a dialogue more than two years ago that began with his simple notification to a freedom-oriented webservice that he was cancelling his subscription because it had sought and been granted 501(c)(3) tax status. ("Exchange on 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Status Reason for Cancelling Subscription"). The webservice's representative wrote back with copious reasonings and excuses, to which Paul responded with his own comments inline to hirs. At the close of that message he added that the brief message exchange (without hir name) would become a part of The Self-Sovereign Individual Project Freedom Dialogues, to demonstrate faulty reasoning by a libertarian. Part of the response follows:

Subject: Re: XXX Unsubscribe because of 501(c)(3) status
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003 14:38:21 -0500
From: Representative
To: "Paul Antonik Wakfer"

On 7/9/2003, at 3:02 PM, Paul Antonik Wakfer emailed me:

Dear Mr. Wakfer,

As we appear to have fairly strong and differing opinions on the
subject of 501(c)(3) organizations, I will not engage further on the
discussion. I do respect your views.

>PS. We will be publishing this dialogue (without your name) on our
>website in our section: "Freedom Dialogues".

I did not respond to you with the understanding that this was a public
exchange, or would be made public. I thought it was a private exchange
between two individuals and respectfully ask that it remain so.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rep Representative
Director of Operations, Xxxx-Xxxxxx.Net

Representative wrote:
> On 7/9/2003, at 3:02 PM, Paul Antonik Wakfer emailed me:

> Dear Mr. Wakfer,

> As we appear to have fairly strong and differing opinions on the
> subject of 501(c)(3) organizations, I will not engage further on the
> discussion. I do respect your views.

>>PS. We will be publishing this dialogue (without your name) on our
>>website in our section: "Freedom Dialogues".

> I did not respond to you with the understanding that this was a public
> exchange, or would be made public. I thought it was a private exchange
> between two individuals and respectfully ask that it remain so.

This also says something about you and your views (personally). I do not
accept anyone as being a "representative" of any group, at least not in
the realm of ideas which can only be individual - groups don't have
ideas nor do they choose and act as volitional entities.

If you truly think that what you are saying is rational and moral, then
you should be fully willing and even eager to bear public scrutiny. In
fact, you should also want to publish such a dialogue on your own
website to proudly make your points. As I have always declared, anyone
is fully at liberty to use anything which I write or say to them unless
ahead of that I make a contract with them not to do so. And that
includes the use of my name as its author. I realize that this is not
the default understanding on the WWW with respect to private email, and
for that reason I will not use your personal name. However, I reject any
idea of a unilateral contract. If you send me some written material
without first getting my acceptance not to show it to others, then you
have ipso facto given it into the public domain and I may do what I want
with it so long as I am honest about where it came from. OTOH, if you
required that I promise not to do so ahead of time then I would
generally not wish to converse with you at all. The reason for this is
that I am not willing to give my time in intellectual conversation to
only one person when and if many others would benefit, unless that one
person is someone very special to me and there is some very good reason
to me why the information should not be made public.

--Paul Wakfer

MoreLife for the rational -
Reality based tools for more life in quantity and quality
The Self-Sovereign Individual Project -
Rational freedom by self-sovereignty & social contracting

All of the exchange is viewable at the provided link, including the webservice representative's response to the above and Paul's further detailed reply. This individual however, apparently never did spend any time considering the contradiction in hir thinking on this subject of communication. A more recent published exchange with a(nother) libertarian blogger made this evident.

A very recent example of this same assumption that the content of emails is private is in a message I received from my nephew Aaron in regard to the published exchange on social preferencing; part of my email response, as it applies directly to this subject, follows:

-----Original Message-----
From: Kitty Antonik Wakfer []
Sent: Friday, October 07, 2005 1:12 AM
Cc: Graham ; Mary
Subject: On Sending Information



> I also want it known that I consider these exchanges as personal
> dialogue and most certainly do not give my consent to have my
> emails/thoughts/writings or any other personal information (my
> immediate family included) posted on your website or any other
> forum for public access."

I immediately stopped at this point and I have not read anything further - not even to see if you actually provided any reasons for why you have made your statement. (BTW, I do not have access to your thoughts except as you communicate them in writing or verbal speech.) Therefore I do not know anything more than you have written above. It is ludicrous for you (or anyone) to continue on with an unsolicited email and expect that I should not use any of its contents to further the purpose of my life. It is impossible for me to not use what enters my mind, just as it is impossible to "unring a bell". If you want to give me information that you do not want me to repeat in connection with your name and biological relationship, then you need to get my agreement first, before stating any of that information - not assume that I will agree to your demand at the same time that you write (or speak) the information. Once you have sent your statements to me, they are "out there" and can not be removed from my head. Merely because you have stated that you do not want me to use any information that you communicate to me, does not mean that I have agreed to such a demand. There can be no unilateral agreement. Agreement is a two-way street.

From the very first email of mine to you - which was unsolicited by you and in which I stated in the postscript that it would be part of the Self-Sovereign Individual Project - it was up to you to either not reply at all if you did not want your response used by me in any fashion, or to at least do the above to (possibly) obtain my agreement not to associate your name and biological relationship with your reply. In my second email to you, I reminded you again that the dialogue would be part of the Self-SIP website; yet you replied again, making it even more clear that you did not object. Why you object now is quite strange, but then maybe you don't want your further words associated with your (partial) identity;.the ones to date are already so associated as I made clear they would be from the very start.


In regard to my email, I will use this one here in whatever way I think it will benefit the maximization of my lifetime happiness - the purpose of my life. Increasing the understanding of others as to the benefits of being knowledgeable about the personal characteristics of others is of value, as Paul and I carefully wrote, towards the creation of a society in which each person truly can make choices that do maximize hir lifetime happiness, The exchanges I have with others - in any form - are beneficial in demonstrating the (positive or negative) points in our essay, as well as directly providing us with information about those individuals themselves. Once again, unless I have given agreement ahead of time not to link the name and/or relationship of an individual to me with their words, I will link all that information together in publication to the degree that I think it is of value to me. If you (or someone else) does not want something they say to be used by me under any circumstance, then do not say it in person or on the phone (or into any recording device) or email/FAX/postal mail it to me or anyone who might communicate it to me. If you send it out of your mind (communicate it) in any format without prior agreement to its use, you have voluntarily transferred possession of it and lost all control over it and what is done with it. I would never divulge information such as SSN#, bank account #s, passport #, driver's license #, passwords to financial accounts, etc because these are of no value in assessing a person's character.

If you can not stand proud behind your ideas/thoughts/behaviors to all (government agencies/agents excepted due to their legal ability to use force upon you), then do not let anyone know what you think or do. The moment that a person leaves the confines of an isolated desert island/mountain top/deep cave where only s/he resided, s/he is in society and viewable (by all senses, to the degree technologically possible) and assessable. (The fact that anonymity is technically possible on the Internet does mean that this practice benefits the interactions of people. The reason for this is discussed at length in Paul's and my essay referred to above.) So in other words, if you do not want anyone to use in any form any information about you, then do not associate with anyone, since that is the only way that you can ensure that your thoughts and actions will never be known and made use of in some manner. Now that's a very lonely life!

**Kitty Antonik Wakfer
MoreLife for the rational -
Reality based tools for more life in quantity and quality
Self-Sovereign Individual Project -
Rational freedom by self-sovereignty & social contracting

PS Upon completion and transmission of this email, I will read the remainder of your latest message to me and then do with it what I determine to be in my widest viewing longest range best interest.

My nephew and the webservice representative are just two examples of very many others who currently operate under the assumption that information can be neatly compartmentalized, with no influence on one's thinking and choices unless one purposely wills it. These individuals have also shown, by their own words, that to them agreements on information are unilateral and do not need to be arranged before the transmission of the information. Such poor reasoning fails to take into consideration that all the information that a person acquires can and must be used in seeking to maximize hir lifetime happiness. All one's choices on possible actions are best done using all the information one has at the time, and information regarding others is as important as about any product or service under consideration for use/purchase. (See "Personal Characteristics as Market Commodities".) The value of particular information is determined by the receiver of the information - based on the degree that it assists in maximizing lifetime happiness. This may not be immediately determinable at the time the information is received, but rather become apparent only with actions taken or further information acquired. However, it is only the receiver who can determine the value to hir of information received - not the transmitter or anyone else.

To use only certain information and refuse to make use of other information is to put one's self at a disadvantage - like purposely working with one arm tied behind one's back. This self-restriction on one's choices can only be done by the person hirself and it is a decision to distort one's choices by refusing to consider some of what one knows of reality. But even an attempt to not use known information always falls short, since simply remembering it has some effect that would not have occurred if the information were not known at all. Moreover, any attempt to compartmentalize information within the brain subverts the most important mental goal at which everyone should constantly aim - to have a fully integrated brain wherein all information is related and considered with the same degree of analysis for its validity and applicability towards maximizing one's lifetime happiness.

For far too long large numbers of people have interacted with others using two major assumptions about communications with others - that one can become "uninformed" or not use information that one has received by some act akin to "unringing" a bell and that agreements can be unilateral. By uncovering some of the fallacies regarding both, I have also issued a challenge to readers to assess their thinking, modify it as necessary to correspond with reality and then stand tall behind their words and actions - and to also not be mislead by those who would impede the fluidity and value of information with claims of privacy.