3D Printers and Privacy

In what will be my last post about 3D printing for a while, I want to make the claim that these devices will be an important tool for enhancing privacy.  Why?  For the simple reason that it lets people make things without other people or firms knowing what they have done.  To the extent that people are deterred from buying things because people in the store will see or because a record will exist from a credit card or an online retailer, that will not be an issue if you have a 3D printer at home and buy raw materials that are basic. This could, of course, include drug paraphernalia or weapons, which are also part of the privacy bundle but raise questions of public safety.

OK, back to the history of the Bill of Rights tomorrow!

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6 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    ” … these devices will be an important tool for enhancing privacy. Why? For the simple reason that it lets people make things without other people or firms knowing what they have done.”

    People like the Unibomber? Timothy McVeigh? Or libertarians in general?

    If so, then hang onto the Bill of Rights for protection.

  2. turtlesdown says:

    Unfortunately, any potential privacy benefits will probably not be realized by everyday consumers. The general public will likely end up using 3D printing outsourcing companies like Shapeways (http://www.shapeways.com/) for their everyday 3D printed objects, which they won’t be designing themselves (and may not even be aware the object is printed).

    There is a significant cost advantage and quality advantage to letting a large company with a warehouse of professional 3D printers take care of the technical hassles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see large retailers like Amazon or Walmart provide some kind of 3D printing service in the next 5 years. It might be another 15-20 years before personal 3D printers become viable mass consumer products. Up until that point, only hobbyists/early adopters or people with a strong incentive to keep their activities hidden will see enhanced privacy from 3D printing.

    In that case, 3D printing will offer little additional privacy to the average person, but the people with a pressing need for extra privacy will benefit greatly. That kind of dynamic may convince the government to regulate 3D printing at some point.

    @Shag from Brookline – Obviously the unabomber and Timothy McVeigh were able to build bombs without the help of a 3D printer. Much of the fear about 3D printed weapons is unjustified FUD.

  3. Shag from Brookline says:

    My reference was to types of persons. What if 3D technology had been available to Ted and Tim? Might they have built more powerful devices?

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    Forecasting what an advance in technology may or may not lead to is quite difficult. So perhaps this:

    “Much of the fear about 3D printed weapons is unjustified FUD.”

    may turn out to be profound, or foolish. Time, plus incredibly creative minds, may inform us.

  5. The 3d printers may be of good source maybe in the long run until someone uses it the wrong way. But as far as cloning a kidney or whatever the case is for someone seems unreal all using the technology in the upcoming years. by doing this I believe there would not be any privacy upfront. That’s when the patent and copyright rules comes into play.

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