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Monday, 21 May 2012

Your Privacy, Governments and Special Privileges

"Most companies do not tell users about government requests for their data."  - Christopher Soghoian.

Watch this Ted Talk video by Chris.  It's about 15 minutes long, and it's U.S.-centric, but do not fret little reader, because what he says holds true all over the world -- in some places it worse. 

H/T: Big Brother Watch on Twitter.

The above is not surprising to me, and I already knew most of this.  Many of you, like me, have installed browser add-ons for a modicum of privacy protection as well as ad-blockers. These only go so far, of course. Your ISP may also keep detailed records of what you do on-line.  You can even mitigate some of your ISP's data collection to an extent, but essentially nearly everything you do on-line is recorded by some entity for possible monetary gain. 

My on-line activities are entirely legal and so I don't worry about the copyright police turning up at my door.  I don't download music or use bit torrent sites for anything. I do, however, use SoundCloud to listen to new musicians and to upload original music I create. If I decide I want to buy music, I usually get a CD and rip that to my computer -- I don't even have an iPod or similar device -- although musicians are increasingly avoiding record labels and are self-publishing their material.  If I want to watch a film, I typically rent it from a service like LoveFilm, and sometimes even buy a Blu-Ray or two if I really like something, like the Fringe series on TV.  I never watch films on-line -- not even on LoveFilm's streaming service.  Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned.

All of that said, I have still taken the time to fully encrypt my hard drives to protect my data from prying eyes. Good luck getting me to reveal the encryption passwords, because I'd rather languish in jail than hand them over to the police or the government.  There is nothing illegal on my computers, but we know that won't stop governments seizing computers to see what you've been up to on-line, or to merely harass you into compliance. Do they really need to know how many times I watched a particular porn vid on xHamster?  Look what happened to AGW sceptic blogger Tallbloke, for instance. He did nothing illegal, and yet the police came in and took away his computers and his modem.  It's unlikely anything like this will happen to me, but I'm prepared just in case someone posts a comment with a link that the police don't like. If they want to know where it came from, they can ask Google.

Of course, fuckwit cum asswipe cum AGW alarmist Peter Gleick actually does something illegal and admits to it, and he gets a pass.  Sorta. Aw, shucks, pardner. Don't believe in government conspiracies so much, me, but why are the nanny state governments going after Tallbloke and the guy who released the Climategate e-mails, which were legally subject to FOI requests anyway since we all paid for them and the research many times over, and not going after Peter fuckwit Gleick?  Boggles, it does.  Must be there are special privileges for those who tend to get paid with money from the public purse.

I still think we need a new Internet.  It will be interesting to see what the next 25 years of interwebby goodness will bring our way.  A total surveillance state, perhaps?  Probably not. With any luck, in an alternate Fringe-like universe maybe the Internet is all about user privacy.  Here, in ours, we are not yet so lucky.

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