On Freedom, privacy and security
Jun 13, 2010
As we move into an era of a digital (r)evolution we are facing new questions and challenges that touch our very intimate human privacy and rights.
Like never before, we are able to store and process data in huge amounts and like never before our reliance on computer and digital systems is increasing exponentially. We are not only using computers to manage our money, assets and wealth but also to help us in our health challenges or in our everyday life:no business can exist without heavy reliance on information systems, each one of us is now having an online presence through a blog ( personal or professional one ), we are tweeting what we eat, how we feel, where we are or sharing pictures of what we did, who we were with.
Naturally big questions that arises : Who is gaining control over all this data? How much privacy do we have left ? What guarantees do we have over no future mis-use of our personal details ? and the funniest question is : How is the government going to protect us and who is going to protect us from our government ? because let us face it , all governments are information hungry. Intelligence/security/economy/……/health/social analysis systems all need information in order to predict trends, avoid security breaches, build studies or just for the most basis principle governments feed on : power.
While you may say having those “worries” over privacy in itself is “suspicious” or “unjustified” , Only criminals have stuff to hide, right? , or as recently google CEO has –sadly- repeated twice : “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
As right as those arguments are – their main fail point is that they accept the idea that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.
Privacy is not overrated. It is certainly considered a basic human right, it is one of the keys to our more basic rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happYness.
Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” and say that we should compromise. The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion and value privacy even when we have nothing to hide.
If power corrupts, then access to a pure, live stream of data on every human being in all the above details corrupts absolutely and everyone must start questioning : what is being done with MY data, do i have the right to take MY data back from YOUR system ?
So if you are an “e-citizen” and you have a concern of “security” and “privacy” , you have a lot to worry about, you have the power hungry governments and intelligence agencies, the companies who want to probably “monetize” aka “sell” your data, you have people who can gain unprivileged access to information systems and abuse them ( black hat hackers and the gang ) and you have as well ambiguous laws and license agreements that you have to “agree” on.
Sadly Moore’s Law does not apply to legal innovation, the disparities between technology and the law are likely to become even greater and that we need a tech-savy judiciary body to be able to have a deep understanding of issues at stake. Even with a good law designed , Another workaround is the third-party doctrine. When you communicate with another person—whether via telephone, e-mail, or letter—you always assume the risk that the other party to your communication will reveal it to the public or law enforcement. Thus, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis the other party to your conversation.
But is Yahoo a party to your e-mail communication? Is Google a party to your Picasa photo album or Google Doc spreadsheet? Is Apple a party to your contact list stored on MobileMe? If they are, then the government may be able to obtain that that information without a warrant and without your consent. There is always also a workaround of requesting list of the “transactions” just like the police can ask for the list of phone calls without a warrant
In the end, So how can people protect their private data and still enjoy the functionality of the cloud?
Encryption methods are advancing to meet these security demands, and everyday consumers now have access to encryption tools that even law enforcement cannot easily crack.
But what if law enforcement does crack the encryption? (they actually do crack them) Or what if the government is able to obtain the data by going through the cloud service provider, who may have a back door built into the system despite assurances that your data is password-protected and private? ( anyone remembers the key for NSA in windows ? ) In the physical context, the Court has said that a lock is not necessary to create a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is because expectations of privacy are not based upon how easy or difficult it may be to be searched because the home is considered reasonably private even tho it is easy to come in.
How come our briefcases, bags, photo albums are private and Why, then, should the same not apply to the photographs, e-mails, and other personal documents that we “carry around with us” and access virtually via the cloud? Those objects do not lose their status as highly personal simply because they are digitized.
We are definitely on important turning point and least to say is that we should demand our e-rights and become aware of them. The use of technology is not an option or an “accommodation”. It is a basic need and we should demand not only access to information but also control of our data through the insanely interconnected networks and complicated “agreements”.