THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 847, November 15, 2015
I don't recall anyone ever saying "Fewer
guns, more crime.", but maybe it's time
we did. We have just been treated to an
example of that insane principle at work.
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
Being in favour of the right to privacy is fundamental to my understanding of the zero aggression principle. It is none of my business what you do in the privacy of your home, on your computer, in your e-mail messages, on the telephone, or in any other aspect of your life, provided that you are not engaged in acts of initiatory force. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, what you think or say neither picks my pocket nor punches my nose.
My right to defend myself, with tools as I see fit, has nothing to do with your right to think, write, talk, act, and express yourself as you see fit, unless your actions represent a threat of initiatory force to me. Equally, my freedom to defend my own privacy has nothing to do with you, your "security," or any ideas your government may have about what I should and should not do.
If Feinstein Hates It...
Feinstein and her ilk appear to believe that government should not only be allowed to invade the privacy of individuals, they also seem to believe that government should be allowed to engage in wars of aggression, attack individuals in their homes, round up dissenters, and impose Orwellian "thought police" restrictions on free speech. She may (or may not) deny that she believes these things, but her actions and the legislation that she has promoted confirm that she does in fact believe them. Feinstein is an authoritarian who would rather see you tortured to death under extreme rendition than see you express a point of view contrary to her own, in my opinion.
In case you thought maybe fleeing to London, England would help solve your difficulties, I have sad news. The UK's "investigatory powers" bill and other rules would seem to obligate every company over there to prevent their customers from using effective encryption. You know, to keep the British Empire safe from the people it has under military occupation.
Brandeis and Warren Favoured Privacy Back in 1890, one of the most influential essays in the history of American law was published. It was written by Louis Brandeis (who would later be on the USA supreme court and write an opinion with the famous "we have more to fear from men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding" quote) and Samuel Warren, a Boston lawyer. You can read it here. I've excerpted some parts here to give you a sense of their thoughts on the matter.
"Recent inventions and business methods call attention to the next step which must be taken for the protection of the person, and for securing to the individual what Judge Cooley calls the right 'to be let alone.' Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that 'what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house- tops.' For years there has been a feeling that the law must afford some remedy for the unauthorized circulation of portraits of private persons....
"The common law secures to each individual the right of determining, ordinarily, to what extent his thoughts, sentiments, and emotions shall be communicated to others. Under our system of government, he can never be compelled to express them (except when upon the witness stand); and even if he has chosen to give them expression, he generally retains the power to fix the limits of the publicity which shall be given them. The existence of this right does not depend upon the particular method of expression adopted. It is immaterial whether it be by word or by signs, in painting, by sculpture, or in music. Neither does the existence of the right depend upon the nature or value of the thought or emotions, nor upon the excellence of the means of expression. The same protection is accorded to a casual letter or an entry in a diary and to the most valuable poem or essay, to a botch or daub and to a masterpiece. In every such case the individual is entitled to decide whether that which is his shall be given to the public.
"[T]he more general right of the individual to be let alone. It is like the right not be assaulted or beaten, the right not be imprisoned, the right not to be maliciously prosecuted, the right not to be defamed. In each of these rights, as indeed in all other rights recognized by the law, there inheres the quality of being owned or possessed—and (as that is the distinguishing attribute of property) there may some propriety in speaking of those rights as property."
You can see where the technologies of the day were sufficiently invasive that they felt that a right to be let alone should be legally justifiable. You'll also notice that they don't explicitly suggest that you keep and bear arms to avoid being assaulted or beaten, nor do they make any mention of strong encryption. But, I think you can reach your own conclusions on those matters.
Some Apparatchikisti Like Privacy...
Here's that exact quote from the UN specialist on the topic: "[E]ncryption and anonymity enable individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age and, as such, deserve strong protection."—Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.
You can see where the UN really makes it easy to remember David Kaye's formal title, huh?
Some Policy Influencers Like Privacy, Too
Here is her group's official position: "We urge all governments to promote the use of strong encryption technologies and to protect the right to seek, receive, and impart information anonymously online. Any laws or regulations that restrict the use of encryption or anonymity online should be revised to comply with the strict three-part test the Special Rapporteur sets out in the report. We also urge information and communications technology (ICT) companies to broadly adopt encryption and other privacy-enhancing measures to safeguard the security of users." Human Rights Watch
I guess it isn't possible to use three words like "information," "communications" and "technology" without coming up with a three letter acronym (TLA).
Of perhaps greater interest is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is not only a policy group attempting to influence, or at least be aware of, the worst encroachments on freedom being cooked up in the Slaughterhouse on the Potomac, but also attempting to provide rational solutions to people who actually use the Internet. Here, for example, is one of their many essays on the topic of privacy.
A brief excerpt should give the flavour: "National and international laws have yet to catch up with the evolving need for privacy that comes with new technology. Several governments have also chosen to use malware to engage in extra-legal spying or system sabotage for dissidents or non-citizens, all in the name of 'national security.'"
If you want to actually do something about your privacy and freedom, you would do well to at least look over the suggestions in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Surveillance Self-Defence" web site.
In my own work, I use encrypted root desktops and laptops with exclusively open source software and operating systems. I use e-mail encryption. I work with open source computers so what the software does is no mystery. I use several virtual privacy networks (VPNs) to anonymise my web browsing. I avoid The Onion Router because of known security flaws, especially in the exit nodes. I use software that writes random data over the empty parts of my hard drives rather than trusting "delete file" routines. I use "no scripts" and "ad block plus" software plugins to reduce the insecurity of my web browsing activities. And, of course, I use a wallet from the Digital Cash Alliance to keep my bitcoin and litecoin activities off the blockchain.
Something else is coming, soon. It is a unique virtual privacy network being spearheaded by two of the most technically brilliant people I know. Among other unique features, it will offer audio and video call encryption. I'm not at liberty to say much more, but I can assure you that the technology behind this new development involves a familiar name in cryptography, one of the leaders in the anti-war movement. I think you'll like it. The announcement, which may be as soon as Monday 16 November will be made on Twitter @digitalcashally and elsewhere.
There is no longer any question about whether your Internet activities are being monitored. Thanks to the revelations of Chelsea Manning, Ed Snowden, and many others, you can be confident that people in the USA government, in foreign governments, and in major corporations are monitoring your writings, your browsing, and your other online activities. Your searches are used by Google to drive web advertising to your computer, tablet, and smart phone. The same is true of all the other major search engines, although there are a number of alternatives which allow you to shed these "features."
There is also no reason, based on the CISA bill just passed by the USA senate; the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" of 1978 as amended in 2001, 2007, and 2008; and the many other laws and regulations involved to believe that your government, or any other, is going to protect you from espionage and monitoring. Far from it, your government is very likely to be inflicting espionage, monitoring, thought policing, and authoritarian, dictatorial control over your online behaviour to the extent it can do so.
The choice is up to you. Naturally, if you want to post every detail from your daily life to Facebook and Twitter, if you want to share every idea that comes into your head with anyone who will listen, and if you want people to know exactly what you think of them, there are abundant opportunities to narrow-cast and even to broadcast your views. Express yourself as you see fit.
But, not every thought you have might be one you want to have become a part of your permanent file of data shared amongst the FBI, CIA, NSA, Department of Homeland Security, and other Gestapo agencies. You might not want what you are thinking, feeling, and saying to go any further than you choose. You might not especially want to have to use your right to keep and bear arms to defend your freedom from jackbooted thugs (SWAT, the sheriff, your local police, or various three letter government agencies (TLGAs)) who have shown a willingness to kick in doors, throw flash-bang grenades into baby cribs, and slaughter anyone home because something you wrote on the Internet has inspired an attack.
Choosing to keep and bear arms is a sensible choice. Choosing to use privacy and data security technologies is also sensible. Choose freedom, you'll be glad you did.
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