Geeks With Blogs
The Right Tempo A blog by Felipe M. G. Ceotto

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Privacy. Privacy had a rough childhood, having suffered a lot while trying to grow up, and being invaded and broken several times. Her mother, Civil Liberty, tried to create a better environment for her whenever it was possible, but Government, a man hungry for power, was always trying tear little Privacy into pieces. The thing was that Privacy had the keys to several places that Government wanted to go to but Privacy wouldn't open the doors all the time. Whenever Government got too close to forcing Privacy to open doors she didn't want to, Civil Liberty would be called and came to protect Privacy, although it wasn't always possible for Civil Liberty to be there and Privacy ended up giving away some keys, sometimes, but that's life. Then the Internet was bourn, and the Internet gave a big boost to Liberty's cousin, Anonymity, which was then able to provide easier ways for Privacy to live and keep her keys, and everything was beautiful for a while. But nothing goes unchanged in life.

Nice little tail, isn't it? I wish I could say that Privacy lived happily ever after, but we're not there yet so I can't say it, and from the way things look right now, that is definitely not the end of it. Unless we do something to stop all this nonsense. I'm talking about the brilliant idea (insert sarcastic laugh here) detailed in this BBC article of some ministers of the UK to hold information of every phone call made and e-mail sent in the UK. I've been meaning to write about this for a while now but it is such an important issue that I've been postponing it to try to write well about it.

As mentioned by a Home Office spokesman, data is really a crucial tool for protecting national security and preventing crime. What he fails to mention is that its privacy is also crucial for the people's freedom, and although the Government can make promises about how this data will be used, once it is in their hands they can change their promises and History tells us that they will always change their promises over time. Another concern is how this can fall into the wrong hands, even while the Government is still just trying to do good with it (in theory), and the recent leaks of data that happened from within the Government don't help.

There has been some criticism already about how secure this data will be when held, and that it "should only be held if - and only if - it can be demonstrated that an appropriate system of checks and balances is in place and the security of the information being stored is of paramount concern", but I say it should not be held at all! One thing that is a common place for whoever works with data security is that nothing is ever 100% secure. An unplugged computer, turned off and held inside a safe is still subject to a security break. The possibilities might be slim, but they are never zero. The data about phone calls and emails today are virtually secure because it is scattered between companies that unless presented with a court order, can't provide them to anyone.

If we continue down this path, we will soon be in a society that is much like the one in George Orwell's 1984, or, to quote something more recent, Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. Put together this hit against privacy with the path they are taking towards censorship with movies and games, and what you have is a nice recipe for a huge Big Brother Awards. It is incredible that this is happening in a country like the UK, where because of its culture, size, geographic location and history, people are used to freedom, and this is very noticeable: it was one of the first things I came to appreciate when I first moved to London, and I don't even come from a place with freedom problems!

Because the people from here are used to freedom I trust that they will not let this happen. The ministers and MPs must remember that they are there to represent the people and that the people can take them out of their positions if not happy with their actions. And I hope that people also remember that.

Posted on Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:23 PM Technology , Politics | Back to top

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