2008-06-18

I was there


Why was I there?

The intrusion into my privacy, which privacy is dear to me, is one thing, though I suspect that I personally for the most part am insignificant, blond and paleskinned enough not to arouse the curiosity of data analysts, but at some point it is even more important to me that the proposed communications interception law is yet another step in a culture of fear. One can make—and certainly they are made—elaborate conspiracy theories about how this fear is nourished by shady characters in order to further their nefarious goals, but I do not think such conspiracies are necessary, Hanlon's razor applies here as elsewhere. Peter Englund has written about the internal logics of the situation, where the ability and possibility to eavesdrop on all communication necessitates that one does so. The reasons for this can then be made up afterwards. The reason currently in fashion is terrorism. In the previous century it would have been Bolshevism.

Lately I have been reading up on the origins of the Western European dictatorships of the 20th Century. It has struck me how the threat of Communism was used to get the influential people: the industrial magnates, the clergy, the army, to go along with the numerically very small movements of Phalangism, Fascism, Nazism, … One could perhaps argue that this external anti-Communism even abetted the totalitarian dictatorship of the Soviet Union by justifying the oppression as defence against infiltration by external enemies—but yet again, by the logic of the situation, an enemy would have been found if none had naturally presented itself. And thus these attempts to stem the awful plans of the enemy have caused the violent (or indirect) deaths of tens of millions of people throughout the 20th Century. The fending off of fear seems to be worse than the actual object of fear.

This is already happening again—or perhaps still, but now with a different label for the phenomenon to be feared. Certainly international terrorism has not yet managed to kill as many as the at least hundred thousand that are now dead in the War on Terror, and almost the same number of people have been imprisoned without trial, in many cases subject to torture even according to the rather lax standards of the US President.

This is why I oppose the eavesdropping law, as I see it as yet another attempt to play on fear, in such a way that the costs in all likelihood will greatly exceed the costs of any attack that may be perpetrated.

And finally, the law does of course nothing in the way of actually protecting Sweden against electronic threats. Should we be subject to a concerted cyber-attack, such as the one recently waged against Estonia, we will be caught with our trousers at just as inconvenient a height as before the enactment of the disputed law. So just whose security are we concerned with?

(Apparently I am very angry—my readability index is lower than ever.)

10 comments:

Martin said...

Any indications that the eavesdropping law is intended to protect us against cyber terrorism, as you suggest? I take it they mainly want to pick up messages where ordinary car-bomber terrorists discuss their plans.

(Though of course the law will also be used to blackmail me once my daily forays onto gay duck necrophilia web sites have been sufficiently well documented.)

Vakteln said...

Förra året dog 0 personer pga terrorism i Sverige, men uppåt 6000 av alkoholrelaterade skäl. Och vad lägger de sin kraft på att motverka, och vilka metoder använder de...?
Say no more, du vet nog vad jag tycker om det här!

kai said...

Martin, you are correct in your assumption. My point was that this law will most likely not fulfil its stated goal—to be sure, I'm certain it will result in a few hapless people being shipped off to be made mincemeat of in a prison in Egypt, Somalia or somewhere, but I doubt it will stop any terrorist attacks on Swedish targets.

Instead, beefing up cybersecurity, which would have a point, is completely left by the wayside.

ArchAsa said...

I was there too (sorry to have missed you in the crowd).
I do not object to police or other agencies bugging suspected criminals - as they do now - if they can prove before a judge that there is sufficient cause for concern. I do object to all my internet traffic being recorded by the government without any cause for suspicion existing. By that logic, all your phone calls, and all your letters, can also be recorded and scanned "for future reference".

Giving a government body complete access to everything that goes on on the internet is not just against all laws of human rights. It is also stupid beyonfd beleif since it will take enormous resources and result in virtually nothing as regards terrorist fighting. The number of ways to circumvent the eavesdropping by any terrorist is beyond counting. From encrypting, to using personal code words.

If we put up cameras everywhere, it would probably prevent 1000 more crimes than the FRA-law. We don't since "that is an invasion of privacy". Well, go figure.

kai said...

I suspect the indefinite storage of all electronic communication is just a few years away. (From being made public. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it actually already did take place thanks to some US security agency.) Paper letters on the other hand, well, they would require manpower. The seduction of electronic eavesdropping is that it is so easy to do.
ETSI TC TISPAN, where I occasionally put in some work, has a working group for “Lawful Interception” that (presumably) makes sure that all communication standards have back doors for law enforcement to go in and listen in on conversations.

In the UK, which probably is the most camera-monitored country in the world, they are hard pressed to demonstrate any reduction in crime due to the presence of cameras, so even they are more a case of seeming to do something, without actually achieving much.

thnidu said...

I would like to link to this post from my LJ.

kai said...

Absolutely, go ahead!

kai said...

It didn't even take a “few years”.

Chris said...

Re: ArchAsa's comment "If we put up cameras everywhere, it would probably prevent 1000 more crimes than the FRA-law. We don't since "that is an invasion of privacy"."

Unfortunately, in Britain that is exactly what is happening and "invasion of privacy" is no protection. We are told that if we choose to venture outside our houses we have no expectation of privacy. Of course, if we stay in our houses we die of starvation (if we aren't evicted for non-payment of bills first), but hey, it's a choice...

kai said...

Bruce Schneier on camera surveillance.