On authors who were publishing information technology panopticon concerns in the 1980s, or earlier

A quickie dump.

Paul Baran / RAND

  • "On the Engineer's Responsibility in Protecting Privacy"

  • "On the Future Computer Era: Modification of the American Character and the Role of the Engineer, or, A Little Caution in the Haste to Number"

  • "The Coming Computer Utility -- Laissez-Faire, Licensing, or Regulation?"

  • "Remarks on the Question of Privacy Raised by the Automation of Mental Health Records"

  • "Some Caveats on the Contribution of Technology to Law Enforcement"

Largely written/published 1967--1969.

Willis Ware / RAND

Too numerous to list fully, 1960s --1990s. Highlights:

  • "Security and Privacy in Computer Systems" (1967)

  • "Computers in Society's Future" (1971)

  • "Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens" (1973

  • "Privacy and Security Issues in Information Systems" (1976)

  • "Information Systems, Security, and Privacy" (1983)

  • "The new faces of privacy" (1993)


Shoshana Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988) Notably reviewed in the Whole Earth Catalog's Signal: Communication Tools for the Information Age (1988).

"Danger to Civil Rights?", 80 Microcomputing (1982) (

"Computer-Based National Information Systems: Technology and Public Policy", NTIS (September 1981)

"23 to Study Computer ‘Threat’" (1970)

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

"Privacy and Information Technology" bibliography is largely 1990--present, but contains some earlier references.

Similarly "Privacy"

Credit Reporting / Legislation

US Privacy Act of 1974

Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 - Queensland Government, Australia

Arthur R. Miller, The assault on privacy: computers, data banks, and dossiers

"The Computer, the Consumer and Privacy" (1984)

Richard Boeth / Newsweek

The specific item I'd had in mind:

Richard Boeth, "Is Privacy Dead", Newsweek, July 27, 1970

Direct PDF:

Based on an HN comment:

Jill Lepore has an annotated bibliography on the history of privacy, with excellent sources;

From her New Yorker article "The Prism: Privacy in an age of publicity":

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@dredmorbius Nice list!

You could potentially add The Human Use of Human Beings (1950) by Norbert Wiener, and The Myth of the Machine (1967) by Lewis Mumford.

@vortex_egg Did Weiner address privacy/surveillance?

Fascism and Catholocism, I know he did.

Mumford's on my Very Copious List.

@dredmorbius It's been years since I read it... it might have addressed automation more specifically that surveillance. Let me check.

@dredmorbius In a way, it could be argued that automation, fascism, and surveillance all roll up in to the same set, which I believe is what Mumford refers to as the megamachine.

To be fair, I haven't read Mumford yet either; but my partner read it at the same time I was reading Zuboff's book on surveillance capitalism and we talked a lot about the similarities.

@dredmorbius No, you are right. Just paged through Human Use of Human Beings and God & Golem, Inc, and it seems like Wiener's primary target of concern for potential societal harm is that of learning machines and automation.

While that is tangentially related to the present-day manifestation of panopticon, he doesn't treat on the topic.

@vortex_egg Yeah, no mention of privacy, propaganda, surveillance, or advertising in the index.

Final chapter remains good.

@dredmorbius It's interesting to think about though... I wonder if Wiener and the other early cyberneticists were clued into and thinking about those topics in any way, or if they had enough other things on their minds.

Edward Bernays' work to wage "psychological warfare on behalf of corporations" against the American public, in the form of the newly created field of public relations, was public knowledge from the 20s with the publication of Bernays' books "Crystallizing Public Opinion" (1923) and "Propaganda" (1928).

@vortex_egg Them, Arendt, the Frankfurt School, George Seldes (and I.F. Stone after him). Possibly John Dewey and Walter Lippman. There's another set of mid-century sociologists, give me a minute.

Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders, popularly.

And later, Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky, Robert W. McChesney. Possibly Charles Perrow.

At least tangentially: Marshall McLuhan & Elizabeth Eisenstein.

Not directly addressing this, but medhia generally:

Media, Advertising, Sustainability, Externalities, and Impacts: A light reading list

@dredmorbius More names for my own copious list, new and old.

I appreciate that we're chasing after some similar ideas here (vis a vis cybernetics, propaganda, and surveillance).

And I doubly appreciate that you are significantly better researched than I am!

I've been more of an erm, chaos monkey manic pixie disaster with aspirations. But we do what we can with what we have.

@vortex_egg I am a chaos monkey manic pixie disaster with ... a large bookmarks, articles, and index cards file.

Some of these I've read in part, much only very topically. Organisation is far sparser than I'd wish.

But I try. And I've got a really bad habbit of digging through references and citations resources.

@vortex_egg And to emphasize the point: compiling and reviewing ideas is a superpower. The game changer is a system which enables flexibly drawing relations between concepts.

The specific toolset you use isn't critical, though simple and durable beats fragile and ephemeral.

Index cards and flatfiles are powerful.

@dredmorbius I didn't take notes on anything for years; just relied on my memory and subconscious processing to make sense of things in its own imaginative connectionist way.

I reached a point in the last year where I started telling people about my ideas. When they asked follow up questions I quickly realized I had no practice with actually retrieving or organizing my thoughts outside of my brain as concrete facts and repeatable claims.

I could probably improv an off-the-cuff TED talk, but if I had to write an outline for it first? Oof.

I'm slowly ramping up taking more notes (in markdown files). I really just need to practice doing it more and more frequently. I liked your concept about thinking in writing; I want that to become familiar and it will just take practice.

Weirdly my reading consumption dropped way down for the moment, because I'm no longer just plowing through stuff with the expectation that my subconscious mind will do all the heavy lifting of making sense of it in the background.

@vortex_egg Reading for me has become slow and higly interactive. Not becaause my basic reading speed has slowed (it hasn't), but because there's so much more processing involved.

@dredmorbius From what I've been reading about taking notes on literature there's an idea of having a dialogue with the text; processing what you are reading in real-time by thinking and writing it in your own words.

I need to get confidence in my written voice, even if it is just notes I'm taking privately for myself. Again, practice I'm sure.

I like talking... for some reason if I'm talking out loud to another person then I have no filters or blocks whatsoever and it just flows out.

It was suggested that I try dictating into a voice recorder. I've tried it a few times and I just get nervous and clam up. Same with writing; all my filters and judgements spring up. I think it has something to do with the recorded word being... definite.

@vortex_egg Reading and writing are both skills, with a wide range of skills among people. There's both innate talent and practice involved, as well as widely ranging specific specialisations.

Mortimer J. Adler's How to Read a Book really is excellent.

Writing took me a long time to get sorted. Maybe a decade ago I could regularly start reading my own earlier works and not cringe. Some evennstrikes me as good.

It takes practice, and useful feedback. There's a difference between ten years' progressive experience and one year repeated ten times.

Hacks can work. I don't do voice recording though I've considered it.

Simply reading out loud (your own or others' work) is good practice.

Mastodon and Diaspora* are helping train me to proofread heavily before posting....


having a dialogue with the text

For nonfictiion (and some fiction) I treat reading as an exploration and dialogue, not merely a journey down the author's path. Reading doesn't have to be linear.

I have questions and am seeking answers. Or at least better questions or guides to asking them.

@dredmorbius Wish I've known about your list when I was writing my good ol' anti-advertising rant...


@temporal If it makes you feel any better, I'd not written it yet.

Progress is incremental. That's why I share.


@dredmorbius Ted Nelson's Computer Lib/Dream Machines (1974) often addresses corporate domination vs personal use.

There were many short pieces in PCC newsletters and Creative Computing of 1970s.

@dredmorbius a good amount of our current issues i feel trace back to stuff the theophilosophical society was busily seeding into the last hundred years of iterative social consciousness. agree or ? this is a great list, thank you ! mind if i put it at my blog at as well? its federated..

@ringo You're talking about Helena Blavatsky?

What principles or themes, if you don't mind?

And yes, you're more than welcome to the list, as well as to extend, expand, annotate it, etc.

@dredmorbius yes and her associates- those who were organized to do those things in That locus. Proof? I was always bad at that part of geometry. It may take a while and i may forget. Ill try.

@ringo I'm not looking for proofs, just a few keywords or references that I can track down.


@dredmorbius People have been concerned about computers and their effects on privacy for a long time, but it's only within the last decade that it has become a tangible problem for the average person.

@bob It seems to run in waves, particularly as new technologies come online.

There was a wave ov awareness that began amongst domain experts in the 1960s and spread to the general public in the 1970s, largely as mainframe data processing revolutionised business practices.

There were earlier pulses, notably with telephony, as practices, norms, legislation, and caselaw emerged (largely around tap-and-trace). You could look earlier to telegraphy and post offices (often surveillance mechanisms themselves).

Since the mid-1970s, you've had a gradual replacement of "The Computer", a singular system, with a general distributed net of "computers", or "The Net" (or Web, or Mesh, or Cloud). During the 1980s -- 1990s, the principle issues seemed to revolve around either PC malware or targeted high-level hacks (see Clif Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg).

Starting in the early 2000s, large-scale data aggregation, to the scale of KB to MB per person within a large country, or worldwide, was becoming tractable at the scale of a relatively small business. (Credit profiling itself dates to the 19th century.) Bandwidth, latency, datacentre scale, and programming was making a confluence of activities (adtech, social media, profiling, surveillance, computational propaganda) possible. Whilst sinking the revenue model of traditional media.

Technology enables. What it enables is often not beneficial.

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