All your data are belonging to us!

bundestag kameraueberwachung

A proposal for a new law faces a lot of controversy at the moment: The TKÜ (Law for the Surveillance of Telecommunication). Unfortunately, a lot of people are completely unaware and uninformed about the problems at hand — especially if they are not reading a lot of things online. I think, this is very problematic for two main reasons (a lot more can be found easily via the link in the corner of this site): the relation data stored is more sensitve than we might think and our believe that state authorities are good guys is not necessarily true.

Isn’t it all a minor problem as they are just storing the relational data (who with whom when and where) and don’t record e.g. the voice (they do but via another law)? Acutally, content is completely irrelevant: The whole field of Social Network Analysis strives to map entire social networks (you and your friends and their friends…) based on communication (one very good example is MIT’s Reality Mining Project). They can even estimate your general happiness: spending time with their friends usually makes people more content. As the analysis produces very concrete and specific patterns it is suited ideally for a pattern based search for criminals/terrorists. Especially “home grown terrorists” will have very sharp disruptions in their social life. All data sets should not only be stored but scanned carefully for suspicious behaviour if we want to take prevention seriously!

Still no problem because we don’t have to hide anything! We even stopped downloading files from dubious sources, so the copyright industry’s desires behind the law can’t harm us, either. But what if your friend becomes a suspect? Remember that you are linked with pretty much people with only six in between? I’m pretty sure you will find a true terrorist much closer in your “network”. And you can get a lock-in from prosecution authorities yourself, too! Visiting Afghanistan for whatever reason (relatives? NGO project?) is not a good idea, clearly, but probably not very likely for most of us, either. So Guantanamo is away far enough (you could get “extracted“, still) but serves as a first example why naively believing in the good state is a bad idea: While the U.S.A. can still be regareded a democracy and a constitutional state, all you know about that becomes irrelevant once you find yourself in “the camp”. No civil rights as you are outside the U.S. and of course Europe (if you consider yourself a civilian) and no rights from the Geneva Convention(if you consider yourself a soldier). No perspective to get heard by a lawyer, either.
For all Germans, there is a very recent example from at home: A sociologist working for Humboldt University, on cities in particular, got arrested for being part of a “terrorist community” (it’s all about communities…). It’s not that he really did something but that he was providing the “intellectual basis” for others — via his scientific research. Once you are suspected of terrorism you lose a lot of rights, e.g. talking to your attorney privately. It’s the attorney you need to get you out of prison, unfortunately.

While it is certainly necessary to provide security for the people, there are some limits that should be respected in order not to lose our freedom in tight situations.
On Nov, 6th, we can give our concerns a voice!

4 Responses to All your data are belonging to us!

  1. Marek:

    I bet the news will talk about the new iphone(released today), not about the loss of privacy which was decided today:(
    Say hello to Guantanamo:

  2. Hannes:

    some more evidence appeared today on one of the most important TV-station’s homepage: phone conversations of journalists were taped (and attorneys, too) completely and in detail. I consider this as a very serious intervention because it will scare off potential well informed wistle blowers. Without these sources the press won’t be able to reveal possible failures within governemental authorities (the first step towards improvement!) and therefore lose one of it’s most prominent reasons of existence.

  3. Hannes:

    Vorratsdatenspeicherung is getting even more interesting. It appears as if Google explained that they will shut down Gmail for Germany if they were forced to hand over user data to the state.
    To me, Google and the state are among the fiercest data collectors around. Once they start sharing there might be little that remains unknown…

  4. Hannes:

    update: Broken link to the Geneva convention fixed. Thanks, Jack! (Btw. Jack also has a collection on cyber law worth reading)