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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future
    Issue #29      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates       October 17, 1996
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Editor's note
    *** Privacy in an age of data (part 2) (Stephen L. Talbott)
          The balance between public spaces and private places
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Editor's note

    The perfect prolog to the main essay in this issue conveniently came my way recently. It's a brief excerpt from a Harper's magazine interview with Kurt Vonnegut, from November, 1995:

    I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I'd never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterward I mark up the pages with a pencil. Then I call up a woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, "Are you still doing typing?" Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, "Okay, I'll send you the pages." Then I go downstairs and my wife calls, "Where are you going?"

    "Well," I say, "I'm going out to buy an envelope."

    And she says, "You're not a poor man. Why don't you buy a thousand envelopes? They'll deliver them, and you can put them in the closet and get one whenever you want."

    And I say, "Hush." So I go to the newsstand across the street where they sell magazines and lottery tickets and stationery. I have to get in line because there are people buying candy and all that sort of thing, and I talk to them. The woman behind the counter has a jewel between her eyes, and when it's my turn, I ask her if there have been any big winners lately. I get my envelope and put the pages in it and seal it up and go to the postal convenience center down the block at the corner of Forty-Seventh Street and Second Avenue, where I'm secretly in love with the woman behind the counter.

    I keep absolutely poker-faced; I never let her know how I feel about her.

    One time I had my pocket picked in there and I got to meet a cop and tell him about it. Anyway, I address the envelope and mail it in a mailbox in front of the post office, and I go home. And I've had a hell of a good time.

    I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different.

    It's a lesson worth learning. More to the point of the following essay, there may be no privacy in a world where most of us haven't yet learned it.


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    *** Privacy in an age of data (part 2)

    From Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)

    [This was to be the second of a two-part series. But after finishing part 1, I made the mistake of picking up my three-decades-old copy of Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Part 2 immedia