Feeds

Privacy 'Dark Ages' force activist rethink

Resistance isn’t futile

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

Privacy activists need to change tactics to adapt to changing public attitudes, a leading campaigner said Thursday. Simon Davies, a director of Privacy International, said campaigners need to win the argument by force of evidence rather than assuming that people naturally guard their privacy against government encroachment, an assumption he said is no longer valid.

If "logic and common sense" fail to shift public policy then "well placed" technicians might be prepared to sabotage invasive projects, Davies predicted. He said government moves to systematically profile and monitor its citizens have inflamed techies - even though the public at large remain indifferent. Government surveillance efforts predate the 9/11 terrorist attacks and include many projects (such as Britain's ID card scheme) of questionable utility.

Davies used to believe the need to guard personal privacy against invasion was a self-evident truth. But public willingness to accept ubiquitous CCTV camera coverage, ID cards and similar projects show most people no longer really care about privacy, even in countries such as the Netherlands which saw mass protests against something as low key as a government census 20 years ago.

Attitudes have changed, Davies told delegates during a keynote at the Black Hat security conference in Amsterdam on Thursday. "People are prepared to hand over their private information in return for promises of a better and safer world," Davies said. "We're seeing the most invasive systems in world history with practically no reaction."

He said that this "communitarianism" doctrine means people are prepared to yield rights providing governments are more accountable. Davies sees little evidence of a greater public good from government protects that encroach on personal privacy. Creating unified government databases of citizen records increases the risk of ID theft. Monitoring the activities of citizens does little to frustrate terrorist activity. Privacy International’s list goes on.

"We are living through an aberration of history - a dark ages for personal privacy," Davies commented. Instead of simply warning people about how much data government and private companies hold on citizens, Privacy International is changing tactics by commissioning independent research, such as a recent ID cards study from the London School of Economics.

"If logic and common sense doesn't prevail within five years then well-placed techies may be tempted to resort to 'guerrilla warfare' tactics. We’ve talking about a resistance – along the lines of what happened in France in World War II - not wild-eyed activists," Davies said.

Related stories

Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays
NHS chief cans patient control over health record access
Select Committee criticises ID Cards Bill
ID theft is inescapable

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.