Clare Birchall is Senior Lecturer in the Institute of North American Studies, King’s College London. She is the author of Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip and co-editor of New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory. She is currently writing a book about secrecy and transparency in the digital age.
David Vincent is Professor of Social History at The Open University, UK and Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford University. He is the author or editor of fifteen books and numerous articles on British and European social history. His publications include The Culture of Secrecy: Britain 1832-1998 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998) and The Rise of Mass Literacy. Reading and Writing in Modern Europe (Polity Press, Cambridge; Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2000). He has just completed a book on the history of privacy in nineteenth-century Britain.
David Brin is a physicist and inventor whose novels include “The Postman”, “Earth”, and recently “Existence”. His nonfiction book “The Transparent Society” won the American Library Association’s Freedom of Speech Award. His 16 novels, including NY Times Bestsellers and Hugo Award winners, have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Sir David Omand GCB is a visiting professor at King’s College London. He became in 2002 the first UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator, responsible to the Prime Minister for the professional health of the intelligence community, national counter-terrorism strategy and “homeland security”. He was Permanent Secretary of the Home Office from 1997 to 2000, and before that Director of GCHQ. Previously, in the Ministry of Defence he served as Deputy Under Secretary of State for Policy, Principal Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary.
John Perry Barlow is a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead. His writings include “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”. Barlow is a member of both the Internet – and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The trouble with secrecy and transparency goes back a long way. To understand why we need secrets we must take a look at history and the British postal service of the nineteenth century.
Surveillance can’t be stopped. But instead of isolating ourselves and trying to seal off our secrets we should expose them, and the snoopers surrounding us. For the illusory fantasy of absolute privacy has come to an end.
To analyze the true value of secrecy, we should not look to the state or companies but to kids and their diaries. For secrets are an essential part of our human development.
Without secrecy, the state cannot protect its citizens. The public should therefore not have a universal right to transparency.
The cyberlibertarian, John Perry Barlow, believes that we can no longer safeguard complete secrecy and privacy. He sat down with Alexander Görlach to discuss the true value of secrets, how the US copied Nazi Germany and why driving a tractor boosts his creativity.