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Maybe some of you will think I have been drinking the Kool Aid, but I
think SNA will do more to restore than threaten democracy. Some of the
discussion seeks to elevate the right to privacy or the right to
assembly to a right to anonymity, which the constitution does not
guarantee. On the one hand the literature on social capital has everyone
worrying about the collapse of civic society, due to anonymity, and on
the other we are concerned about surveillance of our PUBLIC activities.
In the "good" old days, when communities were small and "strangers" were
recognizable, SNA was done heuristically. SNA only tracks associations,
and only those that are made "public" in some way. Of course as citizens
of the world we must be  more and more conscious of which of our
activities are public and which are private, as that is changing. Our
attention should be focused on those question: Is using a telephone to
speak across boarders public? Is participating in a virtual discussion
on troop deployments on the internet public? Nonetheless, tracking
associations to uncover patterns dangerous to the community will allow
us to be more not less free to safely engage in the type of
relationships that can strengthen democracy. Can SNA be misused for
nefarious purposes? Of course! Every technology has a downside. So? The
problem is not the tool, it is the use or the user of the tool. Focusing
on the tool misses the point completely.  

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