Monday, September 13, 2010

Paypal and the Government

Paypal recently sent me an update to their privacy policy.  It states:
Federal and state laws allow you to restrict the sharing of your personal information in certain instances. However, these laws also state that you cannot restrict other types of sharing.
I have the right to restrict the sharing of any and all of my personal information because that is a basic human right.  If you disagree, then I can write you off as a slavish fool, so you might was well quit reading now.  How I restrict it and what that costs me is a different matter.

What I think Paypal means is that the laws require Paypal to provide tools that its members can use to prevent Paypal from sharing certain information.  They don't want to say it that way because it makes the implication too obvious: Paypal will share whatever it can without your permission as long as it isn't legally required to get your permission or provide you with a way to revoke that permission, which they may as well assume (since they aren't barred from so assuming by the federal and state laws).

Or perhaps the people (shall we call them people?  Yes, we shall) who wrote this have simply fallen prey to the idiot trap that is set up by oppressive authorities from bad parents to pimps to drug suppliers (both legal and illegal) to foolish police and horrible politicians.  That trap creates a sense of foreboding for all behaviors which have not been expressly permitted by whoever rules you.  The trap gives you the feeling that you can't do something new and unique unless you check with the authorities first.  The trap slowly but surely kills off those cultures that are aggressive enough to violate the wishes of authorities, leaving only cultures that encourage childlike dependence on authorities.  Slaves, in other words. 

The sad thing is that there is a tremendous amount of beauty in such cultures, and we lose it because oppressive authorities continue to set this trap wherever they can.  We can do something about this.  When someone tells me "It isn't done that way," I laugh at them.  If they are puzzled enough at my reaction, I will explain that using the fact that "it isn't done that way" as a reason not to do it that way is a recipe for stagnation.  It's the kind of basic instinct (like herding, a specific example of this kind of reasoning) that the human brain developed to overcome.  We have big brains because they enable us to overcome basic instincts when there is a (recognized) possibility  of a better outcome.

We can also encourage and champion experimentation, marvel at the bravery and innovation of anyone who expresses freedom by simply being different.  I have done my best to teach my children that "weird" is a compliment.  When people ask "Why change it if it works?" the simple answer is the same answer we have for bothering to get up in the morning.  It's fun.  Sometimes, it's a change for the better, and if you never change it, you'll never know.  Thomas Edison, Lewis Carrol, Einstein, Nietzsche, and even Beverly Cleary and Dr. Seuss understood this.

I don't think Paypal really will do everything against their customers' privacy that they are legally allowed to.  I think they have some writers who have fallen into and continue promulgating a horrible and subtle trap that has been destroying beauty for millenia.  I'm doing my part to expose it.