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Collected Personal Data Will Always Be Used Against The Citizens




The doctrine for authorities collecting sensitive, private data on citizens right now appears to be “your private data may be useful to us, and therefore, we shall take it by force”. From general wiretapping to data retention to face recognition to mass tracking of individuals, the same pattern is evident: people demanding their right to privacy are treated as criminals who are obstructing justice just for the sake of it.

From experience, we know that all data leaks. Seriously, if the United States of America can’t protect its most dirty laundry from leaking through Wikileaks, you can bet that no governmental authority in the world will be able to – or care to – protect the data they are collecting about you this very minute.

Whom you talk to, and how often. How you move around the city. Where you rest, where you work, where you sleep. Your dating preferences and habits. Political opinions. What newspapers you read. What articles in those newspapers, in what order, and for how long.

Never in history have authorities been so carelessly curious about the people they are supposed to work for, and taken so much information from them by force. The doctrine is evident: “Your private data may be useful to us, therefore, we shall take it by force; who cares if you are inconvenienced by us digging through about your habits in depth”.

Let me illustrate the level of “inconvenienced” that history teaches us is the sharp end-of-the-day reality:

The Netherlands used to keep track of people’s religion as part of the public records. The intent was noble as always: by keeping track of how many Jews, Catholics, and Protestants there were in a city and its different parts, you would be able to plan for an appropriate amount of synagogues, Protestant churches, and Catholic churches, their proportion to one another, and so on.

Then, World War II came around.

There were almost no Jews at all in the Netherlands after World War II. According to Wikipedia, less than 10% survived (14,346, compared to an earlier population of 154,887). As it turns out, it was very convenient for the… new administration… to have access to the collected data, and it was indeed used against the citizens, as it always is in the end.

I heard a new term in my political discussions this week: genocide-resistant identity card. It was in my discussions with @leashless about defense policies, and how the worst genocides are always based off of public records. The genocide in Rwanda is another example of this. If people can do this just from details about your identity, how precisely can you be targeted in the future?

Imagine that the authorities have access to your daily movements, everything you’ve said and everybody you’ve talked to for the past couple of years. (They do, or are seeking to have that access.) How would a hypothetical future… administration… be able to use this against you? Could they conceivably see any patterns?

You know, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t broken a single law. What matters is how your data is interpreted.

Perhaps you’ve managed to keep that lover or mistress a secret from everybody. Well, everybody except the authorities who know, of course. What happens next?

Perhaps you’ve discovered the world’s most delicious reindeer meatballs in a small pub on your way home from work. What happens when the Department of Transportation discovers that you frequently stop by a pub on your way home from work, then drive the rest of the way home?

Perhaps you’re helping your grandmother with her weekly groceries every Friday evening. What happens when the social authorities see you stopping for hours on the main prostitution street every Friday night – and they don’t know (or care) that your grandmother lives there?

Mathematically, we make the following observation: No citizen data is thrown away, nor is there ever less data collected, and there is a nonzero chance that it is horribly abused against the citizens by authorities who are supposed to work for them. Since there is a nonzero and non-decreasing chance, it will eventually happen, with mathematical certainty.

This data collection doctrine focused on usefulness has to change, of course. Urgently so. It needs to change to something like this:

“Any data collected must be assumed to leak and be used against the citizen in the worst conceivable way. If this worst conceivable way is not acceptable in a democratic society, then the data may not be collected in the first place.”

After all, it is only prudent that we demand our seven privacies: those of body, correspondence, data, economy, identity, location, and territory.

The next week, the Swedish parliament votes whether to introduce the violatory Data Retention Directive in Sweden. Today, there were rallies all over Sweden demanding our right to privacy. It is a more than reasonable demand.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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  1. 1

    As a Polish guy, I cannot completely understand, how such nice, gentle, caring, warm and extremely open and tolerant Dutch people – especially for East & MiddleEuropeans. Could made such terrible things to their own citizens during WW2. Simply helping nazis with sending Jewish compatriots to the gas chambers . That’s something truly mysterious and unexplainable.

    • 1.1

      The article explains it. The public records were captured.

      One of the things the dutch resistance did was to torch county archives, but this was a drop in the bucket .

      But to this day grandparents teach their grandkids the lesson learned: Nothing to fear because you have nothing to hide? No way! Hide everything, and distrust all who try to glean it from you.

      In other news several extermination camps were sited in Poland. We don’t blame the poles of course, because poland was occupied at the time.

    • 1.2

      Technological determinism: the technology makes it easy to do so it happens. Unalienable Citizen Rights regarding technology is an antidote and a global priority to prevent state machinery from being corrupted by the massive increase in surveillance power

    • 1.3

      “On February 22, 1941, the Germans arrested several hundred Jews and deported them from Amsterdam first to the Buchenwald concentration camp and then to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Almost all of them were murdered in Mauthausen. The arrests and the brutal treatment shocked the population of Amsterdam. In response, Communist activists organized a general strike on February 25, and were joined by many other worker organizations. Major factories, the transportation system, and most public services came to a standstill. The Germans brutally suppressed the strike after three days, crippling Dutch resistance organizations in the process.”

      This is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_community_of_Amsterdam#The_Holocaust ; I was told this story in detail when visiting the Netherlands. As in many other countries, some people turned a blind eye, others resisted.

      But that’s all beside the point of this article. The point (if I understood correctly) is that the Dutch kept records of _all_ religions, long before WW2, and the reasoning was completely benign: better city planning. Good intentions, horrible outcome.

    • 1.4
      Scary Devil Monastery

      The same could be said about the germans during the pre-war era.

      Psychology was tasked to answer the question as to why and how generally loving and caring “normal” people could, én másse, accept the marginalization, demonization, and subsequent extermination of minorities.

      The answer was, to sum it up, frightening – no nation, no matter how “civilized” is immune to going down that road. In essence, all that is required is fear.

      Some of this we saw right after 2001. Most terror laws in European nations today are essentially the same as pre-existing laws regarding conspiracy to commit murder, with just one vital exception. Burden of proof and due process are corcumvented or abolished completely if the suspect in question is of middle-eastern descent or has had connection to specific religions.

      In most countries today police can justify just about any action up to and including shooting with intent to kill as long as the suspect’s name is “Muhammed”. Or if s/he is clearly of a different color.

      It hasn’t been used in this way, but the number of groundless arrests and in many cases outright direct harassment is staggering.

      And yet we do…nothing. Just like the germans after they “elected” Hitler, we choose to go on about our business when an entire subsegment of our citizenry is placed in the category of “undesirable”.

      In order to go the next step – concentration camps, labor camps, extermination – you need a political structure filled with psychopaths and crazed ideologues. Fortunately that does not exist in any european nation today.

      But assuming that the worst happened – that we gutted our existing parliaments and filled them with sycophantic hangers-on to a “strong” sociopathic leader…those of us who objected too loudly mabout the new “emergency measures” would become the social outcasts. Not the other way around. And most of us would do what the Dutch did and the Germans did – we’d close our fists in our pockets and deny it was happening.

  2. 2

    You mean “Your private *information* may be useful…”.

    • 2.1
      Rick Falkvinge

      In my wordlist, data and information are synonymous and interchangeable. What difference do you ascribe between them that would mandate one over the other?


      • 2.1.1
        Rev. Smith

        Information is data which has been processed in one way or the other. For instance data that is locked away from all eyes (even computers) is therefore not information.
        Although information would be a bit more suitable in this case, data would works just as well in my opinion.

        • LennStar

          In my wording “data” is a fact (or trillions of facts like temperature on every point of earth), information is a fact used by someone (how cold it is, do I need more clothes?).

          So -> data retention = right word, but using it is making information

  3. 3

    “Your private ??? may be useful to us, therefore, we shall take it by force; who cares if you are inconvenienced by us digging through about your habits in depth”
    there is needer data nor information, a word is missing.

    David X.

    • 3.1
      Scary Devil Monastery

      What will vanish as an effect is a “Private Life” as understood by the citizenry. That may be the definition you are looking for.

  4. 4

    So What to do now?
    Your elected representatives won’t help you now. Whatever you can protect only matters.
    1) Let’s just start with our browser. Use a proxy.
    2) Kill cookies
    3) Have personal mail ids, none from big web mail names
    4) Prefer cash over credit card
    5) Avoid phone
    6) Use public transport
    7) Wear a mask
    8) . . .
    Can you lead such a life? or will this list elongate to the length of infinity and still fail to protect us? It is sure that you are left on your own on this. As long as corporations are involved, no one is going to protect your interests coz, their interests are prime for the state; not yours.


    • 4.1

      1) Let’s just start with our browser. Use a proxy. (check VPN)
      2) Kill cookies (check)
      3) Have personal mail ids, none from big web mail names (check)
      4) Prefer cash over credit card (check or anonym prepaid cards like pay-safe coupons)
      5) Avoid phone (check only anonym prepaid)
      6) Use public transport (check)
      7) Wear a mask (check also really good for hygienic reasons, if someone asks anyways)
      8) Wear gloves in public (check also really good for hygienic reasons, if someone asks anyways)
      9) Never ever use your real live identity in the Internet (check)
      10) Encrypt your data (check)
      “Can you lead such a life?” Already doing that

  5. 5
    Hak Foo

    I suspect the real trick is to undermine the reliability, and thus the value of recorded data.

    There are a lot of angles where the data can be subverted even if the collection system is installed:

    1) Behaviour where you know you’re being observed is often different from the same people if they don’t know they’re being observed. (although it may be an element of the malovent plan– if you’re being observed, you’ll avoid specific actions that they’re hoping to suppress)

    2) Presumably the people who go in and leak data sometimes have write access too…

    3) Deliberately bogus or absurd data can come in through the normal collection systems. For example, I’m recalling a project a while back by a guy who handed out dozens of copies of his grocery discount-club card out to strangers, so his profile would be nonsensical. More sophisticated attacks could even involve things like a cooperative government issuing the same real identity paperwork to numerous people.

    “Big intimidating data” is really a numbers game. It’s cheaper now to look at a ream of marketing or tracking data and draw conclusions. If every analysis has to be proceeded by expensive and manual filtering and clean-up, conventional forms of repression become the better value.

  6. 6

    I deliberately don’t have a mobile phone, so I can’t be tracked that way.
    I keep most of my data on an external hard drive that I disconnect when online. I know they can get much of wwhat they want from other sources, but why should I make it easy for them?
    I pepper my emails with trigger words like plutonium, Al Qaeda, dirty bomb etc to waste NSA/GCHQ time. Damn! Now they know, I’ll have to start using different trigger words ;-)

  7. [...] nu i samband med att man kommer delta i att rösta för EU:s datalagringsdirektiv. Falkvinge skriver om att insamlad data alltid kommer att användas mot medborgarna. Det är så sant och en [...]

  8. 7

    Did some one say DNA database?


    “The leadership of the New York Civil Liberties Union today denounced the State Legislature’s passage of legislation allowing police to collect a genetic sample of every person convicted of any crime in New York State, saying the measure will do little to enhance public safety while increasing the likelihood of wrongful convictions and flawed prosecutions. ”

    Usa MAD?

  9. 8
    Scary Devil Monastery

    It’s a bit difficult to obfuscate everything when you truly have a need for the medium which reports back home. However, there are ways to limit the amount of information you provide.

    Find a VPN with decent rates, good latency and a good reputation.

    Find a telecom operator who does not throttle Skype/Other VoIP services. Ensure that it has a flat rate for data amount. Then obtain a VoIP account with another provider and start using that for your mobile phone.

    Experiment by running your phones default connection over your VPN, and see if you can get an acceptable call quality this way using the VoIP service. You have now ensured that the data retention directive has no data regarding whom you called or when. Two calls to your psychologist, one to your marriage counselor, three to your friends will all register as five connections in total established to your VPN and that’s where the trail ends.

    You can do nothing about the position tracking – there will be a record of where your phone was located at any time it was turned on, unless you are in airplane mode. If there is an easy way to tell your phone to use only wifi and not attempt contact with your operator, I don’t know about it.

  10. [...] Collected Personal Data Will Always Be Used Against The Citizens ——————————————————————————- Shromážděná osobní data budou vždy nakonec zneužita proti občanům. [...]

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About The Author

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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