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Privacy and Security: Incompatible Concepts?

According to an “internet law professor”, technology is fast making the concept of privacy laws irrelevant.

Reflecting on the proceedings at an international conference on data protection and privacy, he notes that “powerful computers and ever-expanding databases make it easier to identify individuals from what was once thought to be non-identifiable information”.

But the scariest presentation for many of the attendees had nothing to do with technology. Instead it came from policies of the United States government, as outlined by our own Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.

In a room full of privacy advocates, Chertoff came not with a peace offering, but rather a confrontational challenge.

He unapologetically made the case for greater surveillance in which governments collect an ever-increasing amount of data about their citizens in the name of security.

In the process, his vision of a broad surveillance society – supported by massive databases of biometric data collected from hundreds of millions of people – presented a chilling future.

Rather than terra incognita, Chertoff seemed to say there is a known reality about our future course and there is little that the privacy community can do about it.

Considering that I’ve voluntarily given up some measure of privacy by regularly posting my thoughts in this space, I may have no right to be concerned about this attitude. But I am.

And especially since it seems to be the policy of the American government that the tracking and monitoring of its citizens (and anyone else who looks cross-eyed in this direction) is a “known reality”.

I understand that technology is making it impossible for someone to go completely anonymous in todays world.

However, is it really necessary to exchange every last bit of our privacy in the name of “security”?

privacy, homeland security, surveillance

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2 Comments

  1. Mark

    Here’s a hypothetical but believable, interesting and somewhat plodding read about how Mr. Chertoff’s reality might come to pass:

    http://tinyurl.com/yudbmh

  2. Tim

    I love Cory Doctorow’s writing. Thanks for the link.

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