The Secret in the Information Society

Paper by Dennis Broeders in Philosophy & Technology: “Who can still keep a secret in a world in which everyone and everything are connected by technology aimed at charting and cross-referencing people, objects, movements, behaviour, relationships, tastes and preferences? The possibilities to keep a secret have come under severe pressure in the information age. That goes for the individual as well as the state. This development merits attention as secrecy is foundational for individual freedom as well as essential to the functioning of the state. Building on Simmel’s work on secrecy, this paper argues that the individual’s secrets should be saved from the ever-expanding digital transparency. The legitimate function of state secrecy in turn needs rescuing from a culture of secrecy and over-classification that has exploded in recent years. Contrary to popular expectation, the digital revolution adds another layer of secrecy that is increasingly hidden behind the facade of the ‘big usable systems’ we work and play with every day. Our dependence on information systems and their black-boxed algorithmic analytical core leads to a certain degree of Weberian (re) enchantment that may increase the disconnect between the system, user and object….(More)”