Rick Falkvinge

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Analog Equivalent Rights (16/21): Retroactive surveillance of all our children

13 april, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: In the analog world of our parents, it was absolutely unthinkable that the government would demand to know every footstep you took, every phonecall you made, and every message you wrote, just as a routine matter. For our digital children, government officials keep insisting on this as though it were perfectly reasonable, because terrorism, and also, our digital children may be listening to music together or watching TV together, which is illegal in the way they like to do it, because of mail-order legislation from Hollywood. To make things even worse, the surveillance is retroactive — it is logged, recorded, and kept until somebody wants all of it.

About ten years ago, a colleague of mine moved from Europe to China. He noted that among many differences, the postal service was much more tightly controlled — as in, every letter sent was written by hand onto a line in a log book, kept by the postmaster at each post office. Letter from, to whom, and the date.

At the time, three things struck me: one, how natural this was to the Chinese population, not really knowing anything else; two, how horrified and denouncing our analog parents would have been at this concept; three, and despite that, that this is exactly what our lawmaker analog parents are doing to all our digital children right now.

Or trying to do, anyway; the courts are fighting back hard.

Yes, I’m talking about Telecommunications Data Retention.

There is a saying, which mirrors the Chinese feeling of normality about this quite well: “The bullshit this generation puts up with as a temporary nuisance from deranged politicians will seem perfectly ordinary to the next generation.”

Every piece of surveillance so far in this series is amplified by several orders of magnitude by the notion that it you’re not only being watched, but that everything you do is recorded for later use against you.

This is a concept so bad, not even Nineteen-Eighty Four got it: If Winston’s telescreen missed him doing something that the regime didn’t want him to do, Winston would have been safe, because there was no recording happening; only surveillance in the moment.

If Winston Smith had had today’s surveillance regime, with recording and data retention, the regime could and would have gone back and re-examined every earlier piece of action for what they might have missed.

This horror is reality now, and it applies to every piece in this series. Our digital children aren’t just without privacy in the moment, they’re retroactively without privacy in the past, too.

(Well, this horror is a reality that comes and goes, as legislators and courts are in a tug of war. In the European Union, Data Retention was mandated in 2005 by the European Parliament, was un-mandated in 2014 by the European Court of Justice, and prohibited in 2016 by the same Court. Other jurisdictions are playing out similar games; a UK court just dealt a blow to the Data Retention there, for example.)

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (15/21): Our digital children’s conversations are muted on a per-topic basis

6 april, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: At worst, our analog parents could be prevented from meeting each other. Our digital children are prevented from talking about particular subjects, once the conversation is already happening. This is a horrifying development.

When our digital children are posting a link to The Pirate Bay somewhere on Facebook, a small window sometimes pops up saying “you have posted a link with potentially harmful content. Please refrain from posting such links.”

Yes, even in private conversations. Especially in private conversations.

This may seem like a small thing, but it is downright egregious. Our digital children are not prevented from having a conversation, per se, but are monitored for bad topics that the regime doesn’t like being discussed, and are prevented from discussing those topics. This is far worse than preventing certain people from just meeting.

The analog equivalent would be if our parents were holding an analog phone conversation, and a menacing third voice popped into the conversation with a slow voice speaking just softly enough to be perceived as threatening: “You have mentioned a prohibited subject. Please refrain from discussing prohibited subjects in the future.”

Our parents would have been horrified if this happened — and rightly so!

But in the digital world of our children, the same phenomenon is instead cheered on by the same people who would abhor it if it happened in their world, to themselves.

In this case, of course, it is any and all links to The Pirate Bay that are considered forbidden topics, under the assumption — assumption! — that they lead to manufacturing of copies that would be found in breach of the copyright monopoly in a court of law.

When I first saw the Facebook window above telling me to not discuss forbidden subjects, I was trying to distribute political material I had created myself, and used The Pirate Bay to distribute. It happens to be a very efficient way to distribute large files, which is exactly why it is being used by a lot of people for that purpose (gee, who would have thought?), including people like myself who wanted to distribute large collections of political material.

There are private communications channels, but far too few use them, and the politicians at large (yes, this includes our analog parents) are still cheering on this development, because “terrorism” and other bogeymen.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (14/21): Our analog parents’ dating preferences weren’t tracked, recorded, and cataloged

31 mars, 2018 - 15:42

Privacy: Our analog parents’ dating preferences were considered a most private of matters. For our digital children, their dating preferences is a wholesale harvesting opportunity for marketing purposes. How did this terrifying shift come to be?

I believe the first big harvester of dating preferences was the innocent-looking site hotornot.com 18 years ago, a site that more seemed like the after-hours side work of a frustrated highschooler than a clever marketing ploy. It simply allowed people to rate their subjective perceived attractiveness of a photograph, and to upload photographs for such rating. (The two founders of this alleged highschool side project netted $10 million each for it when the site was sold.)

Then the scene exploded, with both user-funded and advertising-funded dating sites, all of which cataloged people’s dating preferences to the smallest detail.

Large-scale pornography sites, like PornHub, also started cataloging people’s porn preferences, and contiously make interesting infographics about geographical differences in preferences. (The link is safe for work, it’s data and maps in the form of a news story on Inverse, not on Pornhub directly.) It’s particularly interesting, as Pornhub is able to break down preferences quite specifically by age, location, gender, income brackets, and so on.

Do you know anyone who told Pornhub any of that data? No, I don’t either. And still, they are able to pinpoint who likes what with quite some precision, precision that comes from somewhere.

And then, of course, we have the social networks (which may or may not be responsible for that tracking, by the way).

It’s been reported that Facebook can tell if you’re gay or not with as little as three likes. Three. And they don’t have to be related to dating preferences or lifestyle preferences — they can be any random selections that just map up well with bigger patterns.

This is bad enough in itself, on the basis that it’s private data. At a very minimum, our digital childrens’ preferences should be their own, just like their favorite ice cream.

But a dating preferences are not just a preference like choosing your flavor of ice cream, is it? It should be, but it isn’t at this moment in time. It could also be something you’re born with. Something that people even get killed for if they’re born with the wrong preference.

It is still illegal to be born homosexual in 73 out of 192 countries, and out of these 73, eleven prescribe the death penalty for being born this way. A mere 23 out of 192 countries have full marriage equality.

Further, although the policy direction is quite one-way toward more tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion at this point in time, that doesn’t mean the policy trend can’t reverse for a number of reasons, most of them very bad. People who felt comfortable in expressing themselves can again become persecuted.

Genocide is almost always based on public data collected with benevolent intent.

This is why privacy is the last line of defense, not the first. And this last line of defense, which held fast for our analog parents, has been breached for our digital children. That matter isn’t taken nearly seriously enough.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (13/21): Our digital children are tracked not just in everything they buy, but in what they DON’T buy

31 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: We’ve seen how our digital children’s privacy is violated in everything they buy with cash or credit, in a way our analog parents would have balked at. But even worse: our digital children’s privacy is also violated by tracking what they don’t buy — either actively decline or just plain walk away from.

Amazon just opened its first “Amazon Go” store, where you just pick things into a bag and leave, without ever going through a checkout process. As part of the introduction of this concept, Amazon points out that you can pick something off the shelves, at which point it’ll register in your purchase — and change your mind and put it back, at which point you’ll be registered and logged as having not purchased the item.

Sure, you’re not paying for something you changed your mind about, which is the point of the video presentation. But it’s not just about the deduction from your total amount to pay: Amazon also knows you considered buying it and eventually didn’t, and will be using that data.

Our digital children are tracked this way on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. Our analog parents never were.

When we’re shopping for anything online, there are even simple plugins for the most common merchant solutions with the business terms “funnel analysis” — where in the so-called “purchase funnel” our digital children choose to leave the process of purchasing something — or “cart abandonment analysis”.

We can’t even simply walk away from something anymore without it being recorded, logged, and cataloged for later use against us.

But so-called “cart abandonment” is only one part of the bigger issue of tracking what we’re interested in in the age of our digital children, but didn’t buy. There is no shortage of people today who would swear they were just discussing a very specific type of product with their phone present (say, “black leather skirts”) and all of a sudden, advertising for that very specific type of product would pop up all over Facebook and/or Amazon ads. Is this really due to some company listening for keywords through the phone? Maybe, maybe not. All we know since Snowden is that if it’s technically possible to invade privacy, it is already happening.

(We have to assume here these people still need to learn how to install a simple adblocker. But still.)

At the worst ad-dense places, like (but not limited to) airports, there are eyeball trackers to find out which ads you look at. They don’t yet change to match your interests, as per Minority Report, but that’s already present on your phone and on your desktop, and so wouldn’t be foreign to see in public soon, either.

In the world of our analog parents, we weren’t registered and tracked when we bought something.

In the world of our digital children, we’re registered and tracked even when we don’t buy something.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (12/21): Our parents bought things untracked, their footsteps in store weren’t recorded

26 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: In the last article, we focused on how people are tracked today when using credit cards instead of cash. But few pay attention to the fact that we’re tracked when using cash today, too.

Few people pay attention to the little sign on the revolving door on Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It says that wi-fi and bluetooth tracking of every single individual is taking place in the airport.

What sets Schiphol Airport apart isn’t that they track individual people’s movements to the sub-footstep level in a commercial area. (It’s for commercial purposes, not security purposes.) No, what sets Schiphol apart is that they bother to tell people about it. (The Netherlands tend to take privacy seriously, as does Germany, and for the same reason.)

Locator beacons are practically a standard in bigger commercial areas now. They ping your phone using wi-fi and bluetooth, and using signal strength triangulation, a grid of locator beacons is able to show how every single individual is moving in realtime at the sub-footstep level. This is used to “optimize marketing” — in other words, find ways to trick people’s brains to spend resources they otherwise wouldn’t have. Our own loss of privacy is being turned against us, as it always is.

Where do people stop for a while, what catches their attention, what doesn’t catch their attention, what’s a roadblock for more sales?

These are legitimate questions. However, taking away people’s privacy in order to answer those questions is not a legitimate method to answer them.

This kind of mass individual tracking has even been deployed at city levels, which happened in complete silence until the Privacy Oversight Board of a remote government sounded the alarms. The city of Västerås got the green light to continue tracking once some formal criteria were met.

Yes, this kind of people tracking is documented to have been already rolled out citywide in at least one small city in a remote part of the world (Västerås, Sweden). With the government’s Privacy Oversight Board having shrugged and said “fine, whatever”, don’t expect this to stay in the small town of Västerås. Correction, wrong tense: don’t expect it to have stayed in just Västerås, where it was greenlit three years ago.

Our analog parents had the ability to walk around untracked in the city and street of their choice, without it being used or held against them. It’s not unreasonable that our digital children should have the same ability.

There’s one other way to buy things with cash which avoids this kind of tracking, and that’s paying cash-on-delivery when ordering something online or over the phone to your door — in which case your purchase is also logged and recorded, just in another type of system.

This isn’t only used against the ordinary citizen for marketing purposes, of course. It’s used against the ordinary citizen for every conceivable purpose. But we’ll be returning to that in a later article in the series.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (11/21): Our parents used anonymous cash

22 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: The anonymous cash of our analog parents is fast disappearing, and in its wake comes trackable and permissioned debit cards to our children. While convenient, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In the last article, we looked at how our analog parents could anonymously buy a newspaper on the street corner with some coins, and read their news of choice without anybody knowing about it. This observation extends to far more than just newspapers, of course.

This ability of our parents – the ability to conduct decentralized, secure transactions anonymously – has been all but lost in a landscape that keeps pushing card payments for convenience. The convenience of not paying upfront, with credit cards; the convenience of always paying an exact amount, with debit cards; the convenience of not needing to carry and find exact amounts with every purchase. Some could even argue that having every transaction listed on a bank statement is a convenience of accounting.

But with accounting comes tracking. With tracking comes predictability and unwanted accountability.

It’s been said that a VISA executive can predict a divorce one year ahead of the parties involved, based on changes in purchase patterns. Infamously, a Target store was targeting a high school-aged woman with maternity advertising, which at first made her father furious: but as things turned out, the young woman was indeed pregnant. Target knew, and her own father didn’t.

This is because when we’re no longer using anonymous cash, every single purchase is tracked and recorded with the express intent on using it against us — whether for influencing us to make a choice to deplete our resources (“buy more”) or for punishing us for buying something we shouldn’t have, in a wide variety of conceivable ways.

China is taking the concept one step further, as has been written here before, and in what must have been the inspiration for a Black Mirror episode, is weighting its citizens’ Obedience Scores based on whether they buy useful or lavish items — useful in the views of the regime, of course.

It’s not just the fact that transactions of our digital children are logged for later use against them, in ways our analog parents could never conceive of.

It’s also that the transactions of our digital children are permissioned. When our digital children buy a bottle of water with a debit card, a transaction clears somewhere in the background. But that also means that somebody can decide to have the transaction not clear; somebody has the right to arbitrarily decide what people get to buy and not buy, if this trend continues for our digital children. That is a horrifying thought.

Our parents were using decentralized, censorship resistant, anonymous transactions in using plain cash. There is no reason our digital children should have anything less. It’s a matter of liberty and self-determination.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (10/21): Analog journalism was protected; digital journalism isn’t

17 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: In the analog world of our parents, leaks to the press were heavily protected in both ends – both for the leaker and for the reporter receiving the leak. In the digital world of our children, this has been unceremoniously thrown out the window while discussing something unrelated entirely. Why aren’t our digital children afforded the same checks and balances?

Another area where privacy rights have not been carried over from the analog to the digital concerns journalism, an umbrella of different activities we consider to be an important set of checks-and-balances on power in society. When somebody handed over physical documents to a reporter, that was an analog action that was protected by federal and state laws, and sometimes even by constitutions. When somebody is handing over digital access to the same information to the same type of reporter, reflecting the way we work today and the way our children will work in the future, that is instead prosecutable at both ends.

Let us illustrate this with an example from the real world.

In the 2006 election in Sweden, there was an outcry of disastrous information hygiene on behalf of the ruling party at the time (yes, the same ruling party that later administered the worst governmental leak ever). A username and password circulated that gave full access to the innermost file servers of the Social Democratic party administration from anywhere. The username belonged to a Stig-Olof Friberg, who was using his nickname “sigge” as username, and the same “sigge” as password, and who accessed the innermost files over the Social Democratic office’s unencrypted, open, wireless network.

Calling this “bad opsec” doesn’t begin to describe it. Make a careful note to remember that these were, and still are, the institutions and people we rely on to make policy for good safeguarding of sensitive citizen data.

However, in the shadow of this, there was also the more important detail that some political reporters were well aware of the login credentials, such as one of Sweden’s most (in)famous political reporters Niklas Svensson, who had been using the credentials as a journalistic tool to gain insight into the ruling party’s workings.

This is where it gets interesting, because in the analog world, that reporter would have received leaks in the form of copied documents, physically handed over to him, and leaking to the press in this analog manner was (and still is) an extremely protected activity under law and indeed some constitutions — in Sweden, as this concerns, you can even go to prison for casually speculating over coffee at work who might have been behind a leak to the press. It is taken extremely seriously.

However, in this case, the reporter wasn’t leaked the documents, but was leaked a key for access to the digital documents — the ridiculously insecure credentials “sigge/sigge” — and was convicted in criminal court for electronic trespassing as a result, despite doing journalistic work with a clear analog protected equivalent.

It’s interesting to look at history to see how much critically important events would never have been uncovered, if this prosecution of digital journalism had been applied to analog journalism.

For one example, let’s take the COINTELPRO leak, when activists copied files from an FBI office to uncover a covert and highly illegal operation by law enforcement to discredit political organizations based solely on their political opinion. (This is not what law enforcement should be doing, speaking in general terms.) This leak happened when activists put up a note on the FBI office door on March 8, 1971 saying “Please do not lock this door tonight”, came back in the middle of the night when nobody was there, found the door unlocked as requested, and took (stole) about 1,000 classified files that revealed the illegal practices.

These were then mailed to various press outlets. The theft resulted in the exposure of some of the FBI’s most self-incriminating documents, including several documents detailing the FBI’s use of postal workers, switchboard operators, etc., in order to spy on black college students and various non-violent black activist groups, according to Wikipedia. And here’s the kicker in the context: while the people stealing the documents could and would have been indicted for doing so, it was unthinkable to charge the reporters receiving them with anything.

This is no longer the case.

Our digital children have lost the right to leak information to reporters in the way the world works today, an activity that was taken for granted — indeed, seen as crucially important to the balance of power — in the world of our digital parents. Our digital children who work as reporters can no longer safely receive leaks showing abuse of power. It is entirely reasonable that our digital children should have at least the same set of civil liberties in their digital world, as our parents had in their analog world.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (9/21): When the government knows what news you read, in what order, and for how long

15 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: Our analog parents had the ability to read news anonymously, however they wanted, wherever they wanted, and whenever they wanted. For our digital children, a government agent might as well be looking over their shoulder: the government knows what news sources they read, what articles, for how long, and in what order.

For our analog parents, reading the news was an affair the government had no part of, or indeed had any business being part of. Our analog parents bought a morning newspaper with a few coins on the street corner, brought it somewhere quiet where they had a few minutes to spare, and started reading without anybody interfering.

When our digital children read the news, the government doesn’t just know what news source they choose to read, but also what specific articles they read from that news source, in what order, and for how long. So do several commercial actors. There are at least three grave issues with this.

The first is that since the government has this data, it will attempt to use this data. More specifically, it will attempt to use the data against the individual concerned, possibly in some sort of pre-crime scheme. We know this that since all data collected by a government will eventually be used against the people concerned, with mathematical certainty.

In an attention economy, data about what we pay attention to, how much, and for how long, are absolutely crucial predictive behaviors. And in the hands of a government which makes the crucial mistake of using it to predict pre-crime, the results can be disastrous for the individual and plain wrong for the government.

Of course, the instant the government uses this data in any way imaginable, positive or negative, it will become Heisenberg Metrics — the act of using the data will shape the data itself. For example, if somebody in government decides that reading about frugality probably is an indicator of poverty, and so makes people more eligible for government handouts, then such a policy will immediately shape people’s behavior to read more about frugality. Heisenberg Metrics is when a metric can’t be measured without making it invalid in the process.

(The phenomenon is named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is traditionally confused with the Observer Effect, which states you can’t measure some things without changing them in the process. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is actually something else entirely; it states that you can’t measure precise momentum and position of a subatomic particle at the same time, and does not apply at all to Heisenberg Metrics.)

The second issue is that not only government, but also other commercial actors, will seek to act on these metrics, Heisenberg Metrics as they may be. Maybe somebody thinks that reading fanzines about motorcycle acrobatics should have an effect on your health and traffic insurance premiums?

The third issue is subtle and devious, but far more grave: the government doesn’t just know what articles you read and in what order, but as a corollary to that, knows what the last article you read was, and what you did right after reading it. In other words, it knows very precisely what piece of information leads you to stop reading and instead take a specific action. This is far more dangerous information than being aware of your general information feed patterns and preferences.

Being able to predict somebody’s actions with a high degree of certainty is a far more dangerous ability than being vaguely aware of somebody’s entertainment preferences.

Our analog parents had the privacy right of choosing their information source anonymously with nobody permitted (or able) to say what articles they read, in what order, or for what reason. It’s not unreasonable that our digital children should have the same privacy right, the analog equivalent privacy right.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (8/21): Using Third-Party Services Should Not Void Expectation of Privacy

5 januari, 2018 - 20:00

Privacy: Ross Ulbricht handed in his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last week, highlighting an important Analog Equivalent Privacy Right in the process: Just because you’re using equipment that makes a third party aware of your circumstances, does that really nullify any expectation of privacy?

In most constitutions, there’s a protection of privacy of some kind. In the European Charter of Human Rights, this is specified as having the right to private and family life, home, and correspondence. In the U.S. Constitution, it’s framed slightly differently, but with the same outcome: it’s a ban for the government to invade privacy without good cause (“unreasonable search and seizure”).

U.S. Courts have long held, that if you have voluntarily given up some part of your digitally-stored privacy to a third party, then you can no longer expect to have privacy in that area. When looking at analog equivalence for privacy rights, this doctrine is atrocious, and in order to understand just how atrocious, we need to go back to the dawn of the manual telephone switchboards.

At the beginning of the telephone age, switchboards were fully manual. When you requested a telephone call, a manual switchboard operator would manually connect the wire from your telephone to the wire of the receiver’s telephone, and crank a mechanism that would make that telephone ring. The operators could hear every call if they wanted and knew who had been talking to whom and when.

Did you give up your privacy to a third party when using this manual telephone service? Yes, arguably, you did. Under the digital doctrine applied now, phonecalls would have no privacy at all, under any circumstance. But as we know, phonecalls are private. In fact, the phonecall operators were oathsworn to never utter the smallest part of what they learned on the job about people’s private dealings — so seriously was privacy considered, even by the companies running the switchboards.

Interestingly enough, this “third-party surrender of privacy” doctrine seems to have appeared the moment the last switchboard operator left their job for today’s automated phone-circuit switches. This was as late as 1983, just at the dawn of digital consumer-level technology such as the Commodore 64.

This false equivalence alone should be sufficient to scuttle the doctrine of “voluntarily” surrendering privacy to a third party in the digital world, and therefore giving up expectation of privacy: the equivalence in the analog world was the direct opposite.

But there’s more to the analog equivalent of third-party-service privacy. Somewhere in this concept is the notion that you’re voluntarily choosing to give up your privacy, as an active informed act — in particular, an act that stands out of the ordinary, since the Constitutions of the world are very clear that the ordinary default case is that you have an expectation of privacy.

In other words, since people’s everyday lives are covered by expectations of privacy, there must be something outside of the ordinary that a government can claim gives it the right to take away somebody’s privacy. And this “outside the ordinary” has been that the people in question were carrying a cellphone, and so “voluntarily” gave up their right to privacy, as the cellphone gives away their location to the network operator by contacting cellphone towers.

But carrying a cellphone is expected behavior today. It is completely within the boundaries of “ordinary”. In terms of expectations, this doesn’t differ much from wearing jeans or a jacket. This leads us to the question; in the thought experiment that yesterday’s jeans manufacturers had been able to pinpoint your location, had it been reasonable for the government to argue that you give up any expectation of privacy when you’re wearing jeans?

No. No, of course it hadn’t.

It’s not like you’re carrying a wilderness tracking device for the express purpose of rescue services to find you during a dangerous hike. In such a circumstance, it could be argued that you’re voluntarily carrying a locator device. But not when carrying something that everybody is expected to carry — indeed, something that everybody must carry in order to even function in today’s society.

When the only alternative to having your Constitutionally-guaranteed privacy is exile from modern society, a government should have a really thin case. Especially when the analog equivalent — analog phone switchboards — was never fair game in any case.

People deserve Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights.

Until a government recognizes this and voluntarily surrenders a power it has taken itself, which isn’t something people should hold their breath over, privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!

Analog Equivalent Rights (7/21): Analog Libraries Were Private Searches for Information

1 januari, 2018 - 20:00

When our analog parents searched for information, that activity took place in libraries, and that was one of the most safeguarded privacies of all. When our digital children search for information, their innermost thoughts are instead harvested wholesale for marketing. How did this happen?

If you’re looking at one particular profession of the analog world that was absolutely obsessed with the privacy of its patrons, it was the librarians. Libraries were where people could search for their darkest secrets, were it literature, science, shopping, or something else. The secrecy of libraries were downright legendary.

As bomb recipes started appearing on the proto-Internet in the 1980s — on so-called BBSes — and some politicians tried to play on moral panics, many of common sense were quick to point out, that these “text files with bomb recipes” were no different than what you would find in the chemistry section of a mediocre-or-better library — and libraries were sacred. There was no moral panic to play on as soon as you pointed out that this was already available in every public library, for the public to access anonymously

So private were libraries, in fact, that librarians were in collective outrage when the FBI started asking libraries for records of who had borrowed what book – and that’s how the infamous warrant canaries were invented. Yup, by a librarian, protecting the patrons of the library. Librarians have always been the profession defending privacy rights the hardest – in the analog as well as the digital.

In the analog world of our parents, their Freedom of Information was sacramount: their innermost thirst for learning, knowledge, and understanding. In the digital world of our children, their corresponding innermost thoughts are instead harvested wholesale and sold off to market trinkets into their faces.

It’s not just what our digital children successfully studied that’s up for grabs. In the terms of our analog parents, it’s what they ever went to the library for. It’s what they ever considered going to the library for. In the world of our digital children, everything they searched for is recorded — and everything they thought of searching for but didn’t.

Think about that for a moment: something that was so sacred for our analog parents that entire classes of professions would go on strike to preserve it, is now casually used for wholesale marketing in the world of our digital children.

Combine this with the previous article about everything you do, say, and think being recorded for later use against you, and we’re going to need a major change in thinking on this very soon.

There is no reason our children should have less Freedom of Information just because they happen to live in a digital environment, as compared to the analog environment of our parents. There is no reason our digital children shouldn’t enjoy Analog Equivalent Privacy Rights.

Of course, it can be argued that the Internet search engines are private services who are free to offer whatever services they like on whatever terms they like. But there were private libraries in the analog world of our parents, too. We’ll be returning to this “it’s private so you don’t have a say” concept a little later in this series.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

(This is a post from Falkvinge on Liberty, obtained via RSS at this feed.)

Kategorier: Pirates, arr!