The role of privacy

Technology has made it possible to spy on the masses on an unprecedented scale. After WTC bombings, several programs (within the US) were created that did exactly that: massive surveillance, even without requiring judicial warrants. Reporting this were several reputable sources, such as the The New York Times, among others. A short list is provided in page 3 (printed page 1) of the pdf document you can download here. And this is far from being limited only to the US.

In this state of things, what is the reaction of the ‘average joe’?

Well, among the people I know (and apparently also among americans) the so called ‘nothing to hide’ argument appears to be very popular. There are several versions of this argument, but it usually reduces to something like this: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?” Another fairly popular ‘reaction’ is to label all those who favour privacy and things like the widespread use of strong cryptography as ‘naive’ at best, or ‘terrorists’ at worst.

I have very well known and strong opinions against this, and today I stumbled in a Bruce Schneier‘s article that shows that so does he. I strongly recommend the reading of both the article and the pdf, both rather small, but above all the article. It will not sunk you in tech jargon, and it exposes very clearly the point. And the point is the complete falsehood the “premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong” (and hence if you did nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide). It is not. “Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect”. The remainder of the article explains why. Next I quote the most illustrative phrase (IMHO) of the whole article:

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.”

Happy reading 🙂


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