Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fans of Internet Privacy

Maybe this doesn't bother you, but I think that fans of Internet privacy should probably be alarmed. Via Just an Earthbound Misfit, citing this article, we hear that the FBI is pressing Internet service providers to record which Web sites customers visit and retain those logs for two years.

The ostensible reason given by the authorities seems unassailable--law enforcement believes such records could help it in investigations of child pornography and other serious crimes.  And as the Misfit says,

If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.

But to me, given the documented mission creep of NSA's surveillance activities of our telephone communications, I think there is something to fear.  It's the creeping loss of our privacy, just a little slice at a time, with very reasonable-sounding good justifications....a big swipe at the baddies with an incidental backhand glancing blow at the rest of us, that only stings for a second and then fades away.   Don't worry, you're not in favor of child pornography, are you?  This information will never be used for any other purposes, just trust us professional law enforcers to do the right thing.

Trouble is, I just don’t trust these folks.

Personal experience with people convinced that if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of?:

One of my most chilling experiences with "the authorities" came when I was working for the Army in the late 1990s. As a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decisions, the DOD Polygraph Institute was relocating to Fort Jackson, SC. My role was to make sure that their new building at Fort Jackson was properly equipped for data and voice.

On my first visit there, I got "the tour" so I'd know more about their mission, to be better able to understand their telecommunications requirements, and to ensure that their infrastructure and capabilities were sized appropriately. The PR guy I was working with gave me their standard unclassified briefing on their mission and various projects, but what I recall vividly was his repeating of the word "deception."

His agency's methods and research (including but not limited to polygraphs) were devoted to sniffing out deception....and this, obviously, was good for the good guys and bad for the bad guys. I came away feeling--no, I came away knowing--that this guy was convinced that he was one of the good guys, everybody else had something to hide, and by God, he'd root out deception and come away with THE TRUTH (presumably in support of the other two legs of the triad, Justice and The American Way).

Being in the presence of such a coldly analytical and quietly fanatical acolyte was eerie and I could not get out of there fast enough.  By the way, I vowed then and there that I NEVER would permit myself to be polygraphed, even if by so refusing I would likely cast a strong suspicion of guilt upon myself.

The parallel with the Internet Privacy issue is this: if you are in pursuit of THE TRUTH, that is good; ergo, your methods must be right. The end justifies the means.

And that's why I don't trust these folks.

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