Surveillance and Privacy

In the past months privacy on the internet and the topic of mass surveillance has been much talked about. Edward Snowden’s revelations of  governmental mass surveillance has painted a picture of misuse and abuse of new technology in the hands of governments.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg:

Top level tech companies speak up as well:

Last year alone, AT&T and T-Mobile documented 600,000 requests for customer information made by local, state, and federal law enforcement:

And don’t think this only happens in the US:

Some 500 authors have summed it up nicely in the following article:

They urge the UN to create an ‘International Bill of Digital Rights’ to secure the human right to privacy in the digital domain as well as in the physical world.

As it is now, we cannot use emails in privacy, shop in privacy, be on the phone in privacy, walk alone in privacy, spend time on social networks in privacy or even browse the internet in privacy. All of these things are being logged and used for profiling.

Do you have your phone in your pocket? Your location is being logged all the time through the logs of telecom firms because the phone connects to various telemasts all the time and that connection with a timestamp is being stored. If the phone is connected to several masts its precise location can be determined through triangulation. All these registers are split up with individual telecom firms, but merged through government surveillance. If you have all these registers, you know where everyone with a phone is all the time. And they can see who is near you, so they know who you talk to even without using the phone ( If you do make a call, that is being logged as well; who, when and duration as a minimum under EU law (and Danish law).

All in the name of security, but at what cost?

Benjamin Franklin said it well:

They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. (

In more modern terms, the effectiveness in terms of terrorist thwarting are incredibly small compared to the price we pay, see for instance the level NSA operates at:

It appears, that all this is far better at spying on and controlling the population than it is at foiling terrorist plans. Look through news articles yourself – don’t just trust my little selection here. It is a bleak picture we see indeed.

Happily, there are forces in motion to oppose this Orwellian nightmare becoming more real than it already has. The UN has already published an approval of a draft resolution called ‘Right to Privacy In The Digital Age’:

And the authors I mentioned above have created a petition we can sign. Every signature helps send a stronger and stronger signal from us, the citizens, that we do not want surveillance. We, who do not want to live in a Panopticon can go here and sign a petition:

Consider sending this to your friends and help spread awareness. To many, this happens out of sight and is less real than the more pressing matters of everyday life. But the consequences will come all the same.



PS: To those of you who want to do something about privacy for yourself right now, there are options:

PGP encryption of email:

and for mac:

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