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On Freedom of Information: How Much is Too Much?


Staff member
I can't believe I haven't addressed this problem in the past before. Well, it's time to rectify that I guess.

We all make a big deal out of freedom of speech, and for good reason, but one thing that isn't talked about much, if at all, is freedom of information. TOTSE used to have this as one of their key tenets, and Sanctuary by extension used to as well, but I later backed off from that somewhat when I actually thought about it and where such thinking inevitably led. Yes, freedom of information is quite nice, but is it as nice when people have full access to your location details? How about your banking details? It doesn't take long at all to see the issue here.

OK, fine. So maybe not all information, but if we're only going to consider some information as acceptable to reveal, then the natural and inevitable question immediately comes up. What information should be publicly available, and linking to that, who should have control of information that we deem to be restricted? And what messy questions these are. First, to sort through all this information, we're going to need a hardened method. A good rule of thumb. And the quickest method that comes to my mind is a simple common sense method of evaluating the potential problems of releasing the information versus the benefits. When the problems outweigh the benefits, we can consider that information to be safe to release. The method is very simple, but perhaps it's too simple. Is there some information out there that has many and/or great potential problems but should still be released? I've been sitting here for about 15 minutes, trying to think of something, but my mind's drawing a blank, so there may be an update to this if I read something particularly ingenious by someone on the subject. So, for now, we'll just settle for our current rule of thumb.

Now that we've settled the method on which information we should restrict and release, we now need to ask ourselves who gets to decide who knows that restricted information? I was originally going to say 'control', but then, if you tell someone something, they automatically have full control of that information now too, so even just knowing something automatically grants full control of it. You can't ask for or wrestle it out of someone's mind. The best you can do to get any kind of guarantee that that information can't be released to others is to kill the person that knows it.

So if we're gonna restrict information, then the knee jerk answer as to who should decide who knows what should be the government. But the government shouldn't be trusted with everything as it creates too much of a concentration of power. Of course, it is inevitable that in order to fulfill certain key functions, the government must have authority over some information, but we must take the approach of limiting the control the government has as much as we can (but no more). OK, so the government isn't going to be the magical cure-all as to who will get what information. But if not the government, then who? Thankfully, this question is much easier to answer. Who should know what should be decided by the original people of whom that information first originated from because that's literally the only way it can be decided.


One should note that this article doesn't address any issue specifically such as whether knowledge of how to make explosives should be made public. Such issues deserve articles and/or threads of their own.