The Open Society Paradox: Why the 21st Century Calls for More Openness, Not Less.By Dennis Bailey; published by Potomac Books, 800/775-2518 (phone), www.potomac booksinc.com (Web); 229 pages; $20.76.
To some extent, everyone zealously guards his or her own privacy and fights to preserve it. But what are the chances we are fighting to secure the wrong thing? What if greater openness and transparency could protect our society better than fighting to preserve privacy at all costs? This is the thesis of The Open Society Paradox, in which author Dennis Bailey argues forcefully for a homeland identification card, openness in government and society, and the use of sophisticated information analysis as a powerful triple play to reduce the risk of cybercrime and terrorism.
Bailey argues convincingly that untraceable anonymity, especially on the Internet, reduces individual accountability and contributes to spam, contraband trafficking, and even transnational terrorist conspiracies. Privacy and anonymity are not, and should not be, synonymous, Bailey says.
For one thing, he asserts, a real right to privacy has never existed (certainly, there is no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution).
In addition, encroaching technology will inevitably deny personal privacy in the future. Given that the public has only a tenuous grip on what is a nebulous right to privacy, Bailey recommends sacrificing some privacy for greater accountability, which he contends will result in terrorists and criminals having fewer places to hide amongst us.
Bailey also takes on the growing identity-theft problem, which he says stems from the security flaw created when Social Security numbers were first used as both a means of identification and authentication. As a solution to identity theft, Bailey recommends strongly binding people to their identities using smart cards, biometric signatures, and even DNA.
Regrettably, other than suggesting that state motor vehicle offices abide by a common standard when issuing driver’s licenses, Bailey does not describe precisely how binding people to their identities might be accomplished. Who will conduct the initial enrollment? Which certificate authorities will be trusted? How will politics affect how one state treats enrollments certified by other states? He leaves these challenging issues frustratingly unresolved.
Though his arguments are thought-provoking, Bailey is at times inconsistent. He agrees that asymmetrical transparency—in which citizens are required to surrender their privacy but the government is not—is a recipe for disaster. Yet he defends the Clipper Chip, Carnivore (the FBI system that “taps” e-mail), and CAPPS II (the proposed airline passenger-screening system) as misunderstood tools in the war on terror and other crime, expressing little concern that their internal workings are classified, rather than open to public scrutiny.
Toward the conclusion, Bailey writes, “If the government is to wage the war against terrorism successfully without violating important civil liberties, an intelligent and informed debate would greatly enhance the chances of finding a reasonable balance.”
Well researched and copiously footnoted, this book is a welcome contribution to the debate. But since it doesn’t address the myriad impediments to the effective implementation of its recommendations, Bailey’s book must serve as a philosophical way point on the path, not a final blueprint of the solution.
Reviewer: Michael Brady, CPP, is a senior consultant at SecuriCo, Inc., an independent full-service security consulting firm in Burnsville, Minnesota. He is currently the vice-chair of the Minnesota Chapter of ASIS International.