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Privacy, a one-way street?

4 February 2020

Privacy, it used to be one of the freedoms that was intrinsic to Western democracies.

Sadly, privacy is now little more than a distant memory for most of us.

We are increasingly told that we must surrender any privacy we once had in return for safety and security.

"Only those with something to hide have anything to fear" from giving up their every secret to the government or agencies thereof.

In the USA, the government wants to legislate that every form of encryption and every device that uses such encryption must have a "back door" that would allow agencies of the state to protect information protected in this way.

Security experts say that there is no such thing as a "safe" back-door. Any back-door system that is available to the government can also be exploited by others and thus renders the protection of encryption ineffective and illusory.

Then there's facial recognition...

All around the world, facial recognition systems are being used to identify and track individuals, often without their permission.

It's one thing for such systems to unlock your phone or verify your identity when boarding an aircraft but when they're merged with nationwide networks of CCTV cameras, things get more than a little murky.

China appears to be at the forefront of surveiling its people by way of facial recognition and networked cameras. Western nations have denied doing similar things but, as we've seen so often in the past, theirhonesty in such matters is not something that can be assumed.

The proponents of such systems claim that it's all in the best interests of public safety and national security. We must surrender our privacy in order to be protected from bad actors and those hell-bent on evil actions -- apparently.

Even if one accepted all these claims, there is one very worrying aspect to the whole privacy debate...

It seems that privacy is very much a one-way street, from the state's perspective.

The state wants the right to read our most private (and encrypted) thoughts, track and record our every movement, and to verify our identity at every turn. However, any technologies that might allow "Joe Public" to keep a similar eye on the government and its agencies are rapidly being outlawed.

For example, in Europe and the UK, governments have extensive CCTV networks and use tech such as ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) to track and record movements both within and across their borders. However, even the tiniest little toy drone with any form of camera is subject to strict control and registration.

What gives?

Could it be that those who make and enforce the rules do not want to risk scrutiny by the public who might put "an eye in the sky"?

Hang on... wasn't it "only those with something to hide who have anything to fear" from the stripping away of privacy as a human right?

Yep, a one-way street for sure.

Likewise in the USA, you can be absolutely sure that the government and its own agencies will not be required to only use forms of encryption that have back-door access. That would be far too risky... what if a hacker opened that door?

No, it's okay for "mere citizens" to be forced into using back-doored encryption but government communications are far to important to be exposed to that vulnerability.

Most people don't give a damn that governments around the world are cracking down and effectively making modern drones illegal or at least highly restricted -- but how will they feel when *really* secure encryption becomes illegal?

Already in the UK, failure to hand over on demand, the decryption keys for any encrypted data is a crime that can see offenders thrown in jail. It seems that the authorities have the right to assume you are guilty of the posession of illegal material and you have to prove that you are innocent. Oh, how the scales of justice have been twisted and distorted.

We really should be paying attention to the erosion of rights that has been slowly taking place in recent years...

No guns, no drones, no privacy, no real encryption... why would *any* democratic government do this?

Is it really for our safety and security? Over three hundred people die on our roads every year... how many die from terrorist acts in NZ? It seems that this is far less about protecting the people and more about covering the arse of governments that seem increasingly focused on controling the public rather than serving them.

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