Defending privacy with bad arguments



I wrote the following lines sometime in the first half of 2020, and for lack of a good place I moved them around so much, the exact date is long gone:

You want democracy, not cryptography

Yo, crypto-heads. Encrypted communication doesn't protect your privacy. Laws protect your privacy, and democratic oversight of lawmakers, so you can ensure those laws stay. A tyrannical government can easily do any of the following:

  • ban strong encryption if not all encryption;
  • mandate backdoors into encrypted communication systems;
  • force people to unlock their encrypted media, even without a warrant.

What do you mean, all that is already happening, and in supposedly democratic countries, not some dictatorship?

And look where we are one year later:

  • The European Parliament just passed a law to let law enforcement spy on everyone's electronic communications without a warrant, supposedly as a way to curb child porn. But we all know what it will be used for. Edit: yet more details.
  • Not to be outdone, Apple announced an even worse technological measure they'll build into devices supposedly for the same reason, which has been already demonstrated to work really, really badly.

Things can always get worse however. Since then, I thought about another thing:

Not all tech is equal

Got to love it when privacy-conscious people try to counter absurd conspiracy theories with bad arguments. Like pointing out to people who are afraid of having chips implanted that they carry a smartphone at all times.

Do you know why that's a very bad argument? Look at all the things you can do with a smartphone if you suspect it's being used to spy on you:

  • switch it to airplane mode;
  • leave it at home;
  • turn it off;
  • remove its battery;
  • smash it to little pieces.

Conversely, let's see what you can do with an implanted device, like a pacemaker:

  • nothing, it's out of your reach.

Thankfully using implanted devices to track you is still in the realm of sci-fi (even phones can never seem to locate people when they're in danger and need rescue, in fact). Be glad conspiracy theorists are wrong. But things don't even need to go that far. Imagine a not-too-distant future where you absolutely need your phone at all times to do things like:

  • buy food;
  • unlock your house door;
  • identify yourself to authorities.

At that point you'd be forbidden by law to mess with it. Good luck not getting caught.

Banks around here are already trying to make that future come to pass. Don't say you weren't warned.

Edit: just six weeks later.


Tags: technology, politics