The Eternal Value of Privacy by Bruce Schneier

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

via The Eternal Value of Privacy.

Nobody is the final authority when it comes to monitoring and privacy. No surer example exists than when Stalin died, the rules changed. When the East German state ended the Stazi went away. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein fled from power. Those in power try to cleanse their country of all who oppose them (the wrong-thinkers). Then their power evaporates, they vanish and all the rules change again. The same is true of Bush 43.

George W. Bush was here, now he’s gone. So why not dismantle all that surveillance gear the NSA put into all the network facilities at AT&T, Sprint? The rules have changed, you don’t need to acquiesce to the current administration, because it’s not the same people making the same demands. The rules have changed. Yet as world events on Christmas day have proved there’s always a Jaws-like shark fin rising and falling out there in the ocean. The threat is very close by and we have to be ever vigilant. So the watchers claim of authority is re-established with each and every tragic episode. Still, is a single incident cause for the continued erosion of our rights to privacy? Given the hair-trigger responses we try to architect and instant reprisals it’s obvious to me the current environment proves it can never end, under the current structure. So in order to stop the erosion, we need to change our thinking about the threat. True no one wants to be fearful of flying wherever they may go. And when they go, they don’t want to be faced with having to kill a fellow passenger in order to save themselves, but that’s the situation we have mentally put ourselves in.

The only way out is to change our thinking. Change how we think about the danger, the threat and you change how much of our freedoms we are willing to give up to respond to the threat. And maybe we can get back to where we once belonged.




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