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Is Privacy Dead? Gavin Newsom Thinks So

Speaking at an event last week on the role of open data in democratic governance, Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said that a hyper-open world may not be all bad.

Last week, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke to a small audience at UC Berkeley about how modern technology changes how citizens interact with government. The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) hosted the event, “Can Open Data Improve Democratic Governance?”, and Newsom delivered a keynote speech addressing the power of common technology tools to empower everyday people to influence society.

Newsom spoke briefly with Government Technology before his speech, declaring more than once that privacy as we know it is dead in today’s more transparent world.

“Privacy as we’ve known it is dead, and so we’re going to have to reconcile that the two things need to go together: privacy and transparency,” he said. He spoke of people who haphazardly download apps without realizing that they’re giving up their private information in the process. If there was more transparency, however, they’d know if downloading an app meant automatically handing over their digital information.

This lack of privacy also jeopardizes reputations, but Newsom argues that the world may be able to rest easy in the near future: As more personal activity becomes public, less of it will seem shocking and damaging to those who find out about it.

“All of a sudden, what we’re exposing tends to be a little bit more normal than we thought,” Newsom said. “Privacy is beginning to give way to a new sense that, we all have warts, whoever we are. And in a hyper-open world, I think we’ll, perhaps, be even more forgiving.”

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.
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