Promoting Privacy

Tags: musings, security

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I am sure that most of the people actually bothering to read this blog had to explain at some point in their lives to other people why they actually care about encrypting mails or other (sensitive) data. I, for one, mostly respond something like this:

“Because I am a really paranoid person. I do not trust a government that is unable to see the point of my personal freedom and my privacy. There are many things that just are not anyone else’s business.”

Sadly, at this point of the conversation most people stare at me. They utter things like “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear!” or, worse, “If you are not doing anything illegal you do not have to bitch about people knowing it!”. (This attitude explains why I don’t talk to strangers.)

Fortunately, two people try to promote the lost art of information protection. One is a professor who has written a rather good article about the faults of the aforementioned arguments. You can find it at the SSRN (select “anonymous download”. It is quite funny that one has to divulge private information for downloading a paper. But then again, life is pretty funny sometimes.). Sadly, it is not technical (i.e. it does not show the layman some ways to protect her/his privacy) but rather a kind of guideline on how to deal with people that do not get the point of privacy. The other person is x127 who has written a German article about encrypting mails with Mozilla Thunderbird and Enigmail some time ago.

Like all good books about mathematics, I leave the details of how to convince people to encrypt, to think, to care etc. as an exercise for the reader - you.

Hopefully, with the new (German) laws that are under way, more and more people see the importance of not sharing everything with their governments (with Facebook/StudiVZ, MySpace etc. it is hard enough to remain anonymous, anyway). To quote Thomas Jefferson:

I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.