As some of you have discovered, Online Security Demigod Bruce Schneier has taken note of my recent appearance before the IAPP. He has some nice things to say about the things I said. Or at least, about the things he thinks I said. The problem is, he gleaned those things not from my reportage, but from Angelique Carson’s. And as I mentioned in a footnote a couple of posts back, I didn’t exactly say all the things that Ms. Carson thinks I did.
Some of the comments over on Schneier’s blog quite rightly splutter and roll their eyes at some of those things, even while others have pointed out that there was some garblage in the translation. Which means, I suppose, that I really should get around to posting a transcript of my talk sooner rather than later.
Not today, though. Today, let me just address a couple of the more obvious misconceptions. Because I really need to get a run in before it starts raining again.
First, while some have pointed to my own post as a better record of the event, that was really just my impressions of what it was like to deliver the talk; it didn’t really address the content. For that, you’d need to cherry-pick from a number of entries posted over the years: on the Transparent Society, on God Is In the Wattles, on the essential Third-Worldiness of the US of A (more explicitly documented in my ChiSeries talk on “Gods, Jackboots, and Rule 34“). Even a bit of evohandwavery from Echopraxia made it into the talk. I don’t expect anyone to actually go back through all that stuff and forensically recreate what I said, of course. Only bits and pieces of those postings found their way into the actual presentation, along with other stuff that I’ve never delivered anywhere before. Ms. Carson’s piece is actually the closest thing you’ll get to an actual summary until I get around to posting the transcript.
It doesn’t always get the details right, though.
Sometimes a word or two makes all the difference. I remark that the link between surveillance and fear is “a lot deeper than the average post-privacy advocate is willing to admit”; the reporter doesn’t hear “post”, which completely changes the target group I’m talking about. I talk about stalking behavior in the biological sense (as opposed to the sexual-harassment one), and “biological” turns into “illogical” in the story. I think I have to cop to some responsibility for this myself; I obviously wasn’t speaking clearly enough, just in terms of enunciation. At least, it wasn’t just Carson who misheard me: when Ann Cavoukian came over to chat, she was under the impression that I’d said we were wired “for surveillance”, when I’d actually said that we were wired to be paranoid about surveillance. Whole different thing.
The finding that we’ll take revenge on those who trespass against us, even if meting out that punishment hurts us more than it hurts the transgressor? I introduced that as an example of the “justice instinct” that so many social mammals have as a guard against cheaters and free-loaders. I never drew any connection to the paranoid pattern-matching behavior of predator avoidance I’d brought up ten minutes earlier. Yet the story speaks of surveillance alone as enough to make us “paranoid, and aggressive and vengeful”.
And the whole lions, lambs and veldt thing? That got totally mangled between my lips and your eyes.
So, to any skeptics who might have found their way here from Schneier’s blog: I feel your pain. Just be aware that, while I’m as guilty of hand-waving and just-so stories as anyone else in pursuit of an interesting presentation, I didn’t hand-wave in quite the way it has been reported.