Scott McNealy on privacy: You still don't have any

Big government is the biggest threat to privacy, the ex-Sun chief warns

Formerly cofounder and CEO at Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy is now founder and CEO at Wayin.

Formerly cofounder and CEO at Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy is now founder and CEO at Wayin.

Scott McNealy is best known for his role as cofounder and long-serving CEO at Sun Microsystems, but some remember him even better for a few choice comments he made about privacy back in 1999.

Consumer privacy issues are a "red herring," McNealy told a group of reporters that year. "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

The statement seemed shocking all those years ago, but its pertinence has only increased over time. Privacy is the hot-button issue in this era of social profiling and mass surveillance, and concern among consumers is growing -- with good reason.

McNealy went on to found a startup, social intelligence and visualization company, Wayin. But he hasn't stopped worrying about privacy. Today, he considers governments the biggest threat on the horizon.

"It doesn't really bother me that Google and AT&T have information about me, because I can always switch to another provider," McNealy said in an interview last week. "If Uber starts screwing around with my data, I'll use Lyft."

It's a different story when it comes to government.

"There's only one DMV," he said. "What scares the daylights out of me is the idea of a planned socialist economy driven by a bureaucratic government of appointed officials."

When government is small, the threats it poses are relatively few, said McNealy, who has called himself a "raging libertarian."

It's a problem, however, when it grows and gets involved in areas like healthcare, education and insurance: "When they are telling me what size Coke I want to buy and dictating food portions in schools, it's becoming a nanny state," he said.

Rather than working to protect citizens' liberties, large governments take away their freedom along with their assets and money, McNealy said.

"It scares me to death when the NSA or the IRS know things about my personal life and how I vote," McNealy said. "Every American ought to be very afraid of big government."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Sun Microsystemssecuritygovernmentprivacy

More about AT&TGoogleIRSNSASun MicrosystemsUber

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Katherine Noyes

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place