May 21, 2004  ·  Lessig

So how you reconcile privacyin a world where almost everything you do is “public” is hard. E.g., every click you utter on the net is in a sense “public”; every place you go on the web is “public” — both in the sense that you transmit to the public information about you as you do it. Yet all of us have the strong (and right) sense that there should be a limit.

Here’s a candidate running for U.S. Senate who doesn’t get that: Jack Ryan. (Warning: if you click on his website you get a pop-up asking to contribute.) (Disclosure: I’ve contributed to his opponent, Barak Obama). According to Joshua Marshall, Ryan has a campaign worker following Obama every moment of the day, video taping absolutely everything he does “in public.”

Not only does he record Obama’s public appearances, he tails Obama in his car; he follows him into restrooms; he stays a couple feet behind him when he’s walking in public; he waits outside his office and pesters his secretary. And he heckles Obama at public appearances.

Technically, of course, ok. And even maybe more than technically — after all, Obama is running for Senate. But do we really need another politician who lives by what is technically ok, to further erase any boundary of privacy?

Wonder how Ryan will vote on cameras monitoring every movement of citizens in “public places”? (Thanks to Tom Barger).

  • James Day

    Senator Kevin Murray also doesn’t appear to understand privacy, given his introduction of SB 1506.. You recently published the pictures of your book covers, and banners for The O’Reilly Factor and Prix Ars Electronica. That’s electronic distribution of works you’re not the copyright holder of. Where can I find your true name and address or are you going to commit the crime of not disclosing it?

  • jeff

    You have to realize that Ryan has serious problems. First, he’s named Ryan, same as the crooked former governor of Illinois. Second, it’s the same name as the slimey state’s attorney of DuPage County, who has put several innocent men on death row. That Ryan lost the governors race. Third, Jack Ryan was divorced from alleged actress Jeri Ryan a few years ago and the the files have been sealed. The Chicago Tribune & a TV station are suing in a California court to unseal the files. The rumors are that there are some bizarre sex practices involved, but that’s only a rumor, no one knows for sure what’s there. The files were sealed 2 years after the divorce, apparently to protect Ryan’s political aspirations.

  • Karl


    Here in Chicago, the press are flabbergasted and of course painting this as a travesty. Of course, that’s the epitome of the pot calling the kettle black. How is the man any different than the paparazzi or an eager newspaper reporter?

    What’s the supposed link to the conclusion that Ryan isn’t in touch with ‘the digital age’? You speak in general terms about the need for ‘a limit’ and then blur the line by saying perhaps privacy levels should rightly be different for those who are running for Senate (only U.S. Senate, or would this be entirely inappropriate if this was a race for Illinois state Senate? How much should the people know about their representatives at the highest levels of government? Would Ryan be more ‘Digital Age’ if his crony blogged Obama’s latest one-liners?)

    I know you’re a friend and a fan of Obama, but as someone who had to live in Hyde Park during his tenure in Springfield I don’t hold out any hope for his success in Washington. He’s never met a compromise he didn’t like, and is deathly afraid of offending anyone, because he’s rightly afraid of losing any chance of capturing the downstate vote.

    Don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve seen Ryan is a poor choice as well. But I love his ingenuity, and I really wish every politician would have to endure this sort of shadow treatment, perhaps we’d actually have a real idea who they are, and not just who their campaign managers want us to know.


  • Zeldo The Magnificent

    Obama should have a camera following him around, because everything he’s said on the record has been a REALLY SWEET pill. He’s slicker than Nick Negroponte! And he’s the fave among the professors in Chitown, for purely ideological reasons, and little else. Circle up the wagons and elect the Harvard-educated black dude who tells you what you want to hear.

    Note to the kids in the audience paying $30,000+ a year to attend Stanford: Yes, Your Professors Are Ideologues.


  • Pete

    I’m treading on dangerously futurist ground here, but what interested me about the Ryan/Obama thing was the question of how campaigns will handle ubiquitous availability of comprehensive intelligence-gathering tools a few years down the line. DHS resources have already been used in partisan political squabbles. I’m sure MATRIX won’t be far behind, and since these services rely on the private sector it seems highly likely that similar services will be made available to the general public at some point. Cheap cameras and the means of quickly distributing the images they create have already been pretty damned disruptive (caskets, Abu Ghraib, this issue), as has the process of vetting said images validity… so what does one do as a citizen or campaign staffer when those trends merge?

  • Peter James

    This is the next “hot” ticket. Who will be the first:

    1. Blogged President
    2. Teen Blogged Idol
    3. Internet MVB (Most Valuable Blogger)