Told you so

December 11th, 2002 – 8:23 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Posted anonymously to both the cypherpunks and cryptography mailing lists:

“For years we cypherpunks have been telling you people that you are responsible for protecting your own privacy. Use cash for purchases, look into offshore accounts, protect your online privacy with cryptography and anonymizing proxies. But did you listen? No. You thought to trust the government. You believed in transparency. You passed laws, for Freedom of Information, and Protection of Privacy, and Insurance Accountability, and Fair Lending Practices.

And now the government has turned against you. It’s Total Information Awareness program is being set up to collect data from every database possible. Medical records, financial data, favorite web sites and email addresses, all will be brought together into a centralized office where every detail can be studied in order to build a profile about you. All those laws you passed, those government regulations, are being bypassed, ignored, flushed away, all in the name of National Security.

Well, we fucking told you so.

And don’t try blaming the people in charge. You liberals are cursing Bush, and Ashcroft, and Poindexter. These laws were passed by the entire U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike. Representatives have the full support of the American people; most were re-elected with large margins. It’s not Bush and company who are at fault, it’s the whole idea that you can trust government to protect your privacy.

All that data out there has been begging to be used. It was only a matter of time.

And you know what? It’s good that this has happened. Not only has it shown the intellectual bankruptcy of trust-the-government privacy advocates, it proves what cypherpunks have been saying all along, that people must protect their own privacy. The only way to keep your privacy safe is to keep the data from getting out there in the first place.

Cypherpunks have consistently promoted two seemingly contradictory ideas. The first is that people should protect data about themselves. The second is that they should have full access and usability for data they acquire about others. Cypherpunks have supported ideas like Blacknet, and offshore data havens, places where data could be collected, consolidated and sold irrespective of government regulations. The same encryption technologies which help people protect their privacy can be used to bypass attempts by government to control the flow of data.

This two-pronged approach to the problem produces a sort of Darwinian competition between privacy protectors and data collectors. It’s not unlike the competition between code makers and code breakers, which has led to amazing enhancements in cryptography technology over the past few decades. There is every reason to expect that a similar level of improvement and innovation can and will eventually develop in privacy protection and data management as these technologies continue to be deployed.

But in the mean time, three cheers for TIA. It’s too bad that it’s the government doing it rather than a shadowy offshore agency with virtual tentacles into the net, but the point is being made all the same. Now more than ever, people need privacy technology. Government is not the answer. It’s time to start protecting ourselves, because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

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