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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Sun Microsystemssecuritygovernmentprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?