The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

This is a first attempt to outline the Privacy spoke of The Pirate Wheel. It will certainly change over time, but this is a first stake in the ground.

The Pirate Ideology is a new ideology that centers around the power over information, and gives it to the citizens, forcing a transparent government. This is one of the eight spokes.

Privacy means that everybody has the right to have her life to herself. The concept divides into seven areas.

Privacy of Body: Your body is yours, and you have the right to do with it what you like. If you make bad decisions or have bad luck, society will be there to assist you with health care. Nobody may invade your body or violate your supreme prerogative over it. You may do anything with your body that does not limit what other people can do with theirs. By extension, Privacy of Body includes Privacy of Thought, of Opinion, and of Emotion.

Privacy of Correspondence: What you discuss with other people, when, how, and from where is something between you and them, and only between you and them. None of this may be tracked in any way, nor the fact that you are communicating at all.

Privacy of Data: The bit patterns on your computer, laptop, pad, phone, and other devices is a private matter for you. It is not something that authorities may even ask about. Private data that resides with trusted parties such as healthcare may not be given to anyone but you, and nobody has the right to demand that you hand such data to them as a precondition for services.

Privacy of Economy: Your assets, inflow of funds and outflow of funds are for you to know. Authorities may only observe what is openly visible from a public area.

Privacy of Identity: You have the right to be anonymous in all daily matters and as you go about your day. Asking for identification is something that may only be done by authorities when good reason exists. Preventing crime in general is not a good enough reason. In general, society should be built so that people only carry identifiying documents when they know they will be needed for a specific errand on that particular day. 95% or more of the population should not carry ID at any snapshot in time.

Privacy of Location: Where you are physically at the current time or were a previous point in time is not something that anybody may spy on with less than direct observation by human eyes. It is your private matter.

Privacy of Territory: Your territory may not be invaded without your consent. Territory here does not just mean land, but can also be confined, closed private space under your control, like a car or a handbag.

These privacies may only be violated by dedicated authorities on concrete, prior, and individual suspicion of a specific, committed, and serious crime. Let’s see what this means:

Dedicated authorities: Only law enforcement may break the privacy. Your doctor and dentist, for instance, will always be on your side. You will always know which authority has which role in society — and only law enforcement works with enforcing law and potentially violating your privacy in working against you.

Concrete suspicion: If privacy is to be violated, it must be because of a formal, concrete suspicion. Usually this means that somebody has been identified as a suspect somewhere in a file.

Prior suspicion: Privacy may only be violated after suspicion of a crime has been identified.

Individual suspicion: Privacy may only be violated after the suspect has been individually identified. Violating the privacy of many citizens to find the suspect is a violation of the fundamental rights of these citizens; they would not be under individual suspicion when that happens.

Specific crime: If your privacy is to be violated, you must be under suspicion of a specific crime — say, the bank robbery on May 15, 2010 against Sillybank Ltd on King’s Road in Duckville, Kansas. You cannot be under suspicion for bank robbery in general.

Committed crime: The dedicated authorities may only violate your privacy for an already-committed crime, and never to prevent you from committing one. Your decisions are yours right up until the point where you may or may not choose to break the law.

Serious crime: The dedicated authorities may only violate privacy for a serious crime. Where this limit lies will vary from legislation to legislation, but let’s establish that murder is serious and that shoplifting is not. Typically, the limit would vary between the different kinds of privacy, but a baseline would be an expected six months in prison as a minimum seriousness for violating any privacy.

In violating somebody’s privacy, the dedicated authorities are on their own. Under no circumstance may they demand the cooperation of the suspected citizen in violating his or her own privacy, such as demanding a surrender of passwords, in the process of conducting an investigation. No person can be obligated to incriminate nor clear him- or herself of guilt.

Further, they may only use material against an individual that was gathered with the goal of investigating the specific crime which justified violating privacy in the first place.

Unwillingness to voluntarily surrender privacy rights is never grounds for suspicion of any crime.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Falkvinge: The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

  2. Falkvinge: The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

  3. Abe

    I think “None of this may not be tracked in any way” should be “None of this may be tracked in any way”. Thanks for your posts 🙂

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      thanks, fixed.

  4. Falkvinge on Infopolicy: The Pirate Wheel: Privacy:
    This is a first attempt to outline the Privacy spoke …

  5. Krister Renaud (@krenaud)

    Jättebra. #svpol RT @Falkvinge: on #infopolicy: The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

  6. The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

  7. adtech.feed (@adtechfeed)

    Falkvinge,2011: The Pirate Wheel: Privacy:

  8. Isak Gerson (@IsakGerson) (@IsakGerson)

    Nu har Rick bloggat om kroppslig integritet igen 🙁

  9. steehle

    Just one thing; wouldn’t more than 5% need to carry ID, since more than 5% will be driving a vehicle that needs a drivers license?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      A driver’s license — or something to show on first inspection — can easily be decoupled from identity.

      See? It’s gone so far that we see problems leaving a “Papieren, bitte” society.

      1. steehle

        Well, if the police pulls a person over for some sort of violation (like speeding or whatever) they will need to identify the person. It seems a bit impractical if they are to bring every person accused of a minor violation to the station, just to identify the person. Not only to the police, but to the accused person, especially if it only gives you a fine, and you normally could drive of if you could identify yourself.

      2. Magnus

        @steelhe: If the police pulls a person over for speeding.. well then they do have that just cause to check identity, speeding is a crime and the person in question is suspected for it. Yes it will be a bit inconvenient if the person left his id at home, but if we make laws out of what is convenient for the police, then we are walking around on very thin and also slippery ice. But convenience for the citizen? That can be OK, and that means there could be some middle ground here. So, let drivers license be an id card, but that the police can not ask for it until they have a just cause to do so, that is until they actually suspect you of a specific crime. Today the drivers license is the first thing they ask for, even if you are not suspected for anything what so ever.

      3. steehle

        @Magnus: Oh, I did not mean that it had to be convenient for the police, I chose my words badly. But not having to waste police resources would be nice too (but of course not as a trade-off to privacy). And I can only agree with what you wrote.

    2. Rickard Olsson

      Many countries use driver’s licenses that are not photo IDs. For example, old style non-photo licenses are still valid in the UK, although they are being replaced by photocards as the old ones expire.

      The license in itself does not have to be valid ID. The license just needs to answer the question “what type of vehicle may the person carrying this license drive?”. The question “who is this person?” can be answered by the same piece of paper for convenience, but there is no absolute need for it to do so.

      1. pelpet

        You could have a ID card with only basic data printed. Like first name, photo and year of birth (for non-adults) or the text adult (for adults). It could also have a electronic tag with additional information that requires a special ID reader.

        To access the information, you would need granted authorities and have to enter a reason and all ID readings should be logged.

      2. Rick Falkvinge

        @pelpet: right. Just like that.

  10. Fredrik

    A good post, for the most part, but it has one problem: the use of the word “sacred”. That implies that there’s no proof that these privacies are important, that you take them on faith.

    Sooner or later, if you want to convince those who do not agree, you’re going to have to write down a basis in reality for these privacies.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      you’re right – that part does not add value. Fixing.

    2. (another) Fredrik

      You can’t convince those who don’t agree by showing them proof. Those who think in such a way that they will be convinced by proof already value privacy.

      1. Fredrik

        I hope you’re wrong, because we need a lot more people on our side.

  11. adtech.feed (@adtechfeed)

    The Pirate Wheel: Privacy – Falkvinge on Infopolicy: The Pirate Wheel: #Privacy – v. signif…

  12. Emiliano (@Mematematica) (@Mematematica)

    "Unwillingness to voluntarily surrender privacy rights is never grounds for suspicion of any crime" by @Falkvinge

  13. rik (@0vigia)

    ♺ @glynmoody:The Pirate Wheel: #Privacy – v. significant, I think, that "Pirate Ideology" is concerned with this sphere

  14. Luiz Felipe

    I enjoyed your reflection and I will share it with members of my community.

    Luiz Felipe

  15. Privacy Security (@PrivacySecurity)

    The Pirate Wheel: Privacy via @Ziteapp

  16. Per "Wertigon" Ekström

    One thing I’m wondering with this:

    “These privacies may only be violated by dedicated authorities on concrete, prior, and individual suspicion of a specific, committed, and serious crime.”

    This, coupled with Privacy of Location, will mean that, for example, school attendance records will have to be abolished. These are highly useful tools to spot trouble students – students regularly skipping classes are usually bullied or are suffering through a mental emo breakdown. It’s hard to catch these kids as they do not cry for help, but what would be the alternatives?

    1. Magnus

      Children have never had the same freedoms and rights as grown ups, or do you take that as an excuse to infantilize adults?

      Small children must always be under surveillance to not hurt them self, but when they get older we give them more freedom. When do the link between survellance and freedom break?

    2. Rickard Olsson

      Are you saying that a teacher needs to keep detailed attendance records to know if one of his or her pupils is regularly missing? I like to give our teachers more credit than that.

    3. Rick Falkvinge

      The two previous repliers have brought up good points already. However, Privacy of Location says that it may not be automatically and/or remotely collected, only by direct observation with human eyes.

      This is also somehow the natural state. You can say whom you saw on the town today, but using their cellphone to track them is quite a different matter.

      Anyway. Direct observation, human eyes. If the teachers aren’t in the classrooms where the students are supposed to be, we have bigger problems.

  17. Magnus

    No person can be obligated to incriminate nor clear him- or herself of guilt – You have the right to remain silent.. A phrase most people know.

    What is amazing is that you have to write what you just did, and downright scary that some people even object to parts of it, since what you wrote basically just is parts of the universal declaration of human rights.

    1. Oldtimer

      “You have the right to remain silent” is a well-known phrase, but not applicable in many countries. In Sweden, for example, such silence is likely to get you thrown in jail indefinitely (without bail – we don’t have a bail system in Sweden). Police and prosecutors often use that method to soften up suspects.

  18. Claes Lundqvist (@claelund)

    I like @falkvinge:s efforty to try to define privacy in our highly connected society

  19. daniel riaño (@danielrruf)

    Un esbozo de la teoría de la privacidad desde el punto de vista de la sociedad de la información

  20. Wighar Stamfaste (@Wighar)

    #privacy #pirateparty #piratpartiet a highly recomme… (cont)

  21. Neverhood

    Even though I like privacy, I dont really like the word “Spy” – I think it is too broad a term, and could have a chilling effects on activities we would normally encourage, like photografy in public places. Or things that go even closer to the “limit”, like recordings for map purposes like Google did for it’s Street View service.

    I think this privacy right, with so many grey areas, need much clearer wording than “Dont spy!”.

  22. Sean (@wefivekings)

    The Pirate Wheel: Privacy

  23. Simeon Jonasson

    Rick, does the privacy of terretory conflict with the “Freedom to roam”?

  24. Falkvinge (Falkvinge)

    @forschungstorte You have the right to be anonymous in all daily matters and as you go about your day.

Comments are closed.