It is quiet a while ago that I last read the novels “1984” from George Orwell or “Brave new World” from Aldous Huxley but it seems that todays reality outdistances these novels by far.
Nearly daily there are news like about the spybot net called “Ghostnet” (see ghostnet.pdf), also mentioned in an Heise article (Chinesische Spionage-Software infiltriert Rechner tibetischer Exil-Regierung) or about searching the house because of information gathered from an internet provider or trading or loosing personal data from an telco provider like in Datenskandal bei Kabel-Deutschland or from banking information or …
The internet and all our data in the internet are gaining a central role in our lives. Not only that they enable us to gather important information in a form never known in history before or to communicate with each other all around the world but the internet also exposes us in a form never known before. In my mind I tried to sum up all new technologies which are commodities today and their possible dangers and wanted to list some of them as example:
- ISDN phone can be remote controlled and switched into an listening facility without drawing the attention of the people sitting in the same room.
- mobile phone can be used to track your position, can be remotely switched into a listening facility and perhaps even used as remote web-cam.
- eMail is normally uncryptified so that everyone with the right equipment can read what you wrote and track with whom you are communicating. Exposes your computer to possible break-ins.
- Browser the websurfing is trackable with the right equipment and you are exposed to the owners of the websites your are visiting. (Think of Amazon or EBay evaluating your clicks). Enables break-ins on your computer when surfing on a malicious website.
- Customer Cards give the shop owners a perfect possibility to track your buying habits.
- Traffic control cameras specially with the right recognition software together enable to create a motion profile
This list is far from being complete and only thought to show in which way we are exposing ourselves to the overall information gathering machinery. When all these data about us could be correlated it would give an image about us which would be that precise that we would be surprised, I am sure.
The handling of all these data should be done in a much more responsible way as today!
I think that the data retention at service- and telco providers which discriminates us all as possible criminals and trying to filter and control the internet are the wrong approaches. It is not as if the internet is a lawless space, it is only that each country adopts its law differently when it comes to the internet. But instead of a common effort to coordinate the execution of laws on internet cases I see only technical approaches.
The big countries are much more forcing other countries into a common sense, like they did with Switzerland when it came to the interpretation of their local tax laws, when it comes to money. But it seems that the only idea which comes into the mind of politicians when the internet is involved is control.
Does anybody of them ask himself what kind of free world this is where you need control over your compatriots to ensure the law and safety?
When you really still believe that all these surveillance possibilities will not be used against you one day have a look at the news in Germany: After 9/11 the German Telekom gave millions of customer data without legal basis to the police for dragnet investigation as published on netzpolitik.org and Spiegel Online