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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacySun Microsystems

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

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?