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The Shœstring Foundation Weblog, Miscellaneous Byproducts

Matthias Bauer
bauerm (at) shoestringfoundation · org
reop pubkey
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Mon, 29 Jul 2013

Privacy, who needs it?


At a talk given at the TU Munich, somebody asked Jacob Appelbaum why he (the questioning party) should care about privacy at all. I routinely ticked off a list of possible answers, but Jacob had a new one (to me): (quoted from memory)

So you're doing nothing illegal, why should you worry about privacy?

Well, in the late 40ies there were people who were thinking about the possibility of changing the political landscape of the US. They visited lectures, read papers and pamphlets etc, everything totally legal. Yet a few years later they were accused of being communists and were fired. Because they did something totally acceptable a few years earlier.

In the 90ies there were Muslim families in the US who followed the custom of donating to foreign aid organisations. A few years later those organisations were decreed to be aiding terrorists and therefore everybody giving them money in the past is now a criminal. Because they did something totally acceptable a few years earlier.

And who knows what totally acceptable deed now will be illegal post hoc tomorrow. The accumulated history of past behaviour can be used anytime in the future to discredit or accuse. And the accusing party can filter the data for damning evidence, whereas the accused has no access to the data to find exonerating evidence in it.

So history teaches us that everybody should have very strong objections against a secret store of every word they ever muttered online.

In Germany, it is a felony to be member of a criminal organisation. That an existing organisation has criminal purposes can only be decided after somebody joined it. So this definition of a criminal act by being a member of some organisation implies the post hoc for at least some members.

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