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Privacy supporters remain quiet? & The hypocrisy of “data”?

Or/ Is this an example of the double standards which privacy supporters have?

Let me set the record straight for anyone who is new to this blog.  I agree with CCTV, the more the better.  I think that as a crime prevention tool and an additional source of evidence for a case, they are second to none.  I agree with surveillance by government agencies both overt/covert and strongly believe the greater good is served because of them.   That’s my opinion, yours may differ.

This article isn’t about all that though, this article is about the numerous articles/sites/letter campaigns by users believing that “privacy” is of the utmost importance.

Let me start by exhibiting some quotes from Privacy International where strong views about an individuals right to privacy is of the utmost importance.

Here is their site statement:

Privacy International (PI) is a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations. PI is based in London, England, and has an office in Washington, D.C. We have campaigned across the world to protect people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right.

and also from the site, this time a statement by Professor Noam Chomsky:

With the ominous drift towards a surveillance society, not least in Britain, and the undermining of privacy through exploitation of the internet, the work of Privacy International is becoming even more crucial than it has been in the past.  Congratulations on your past achievements, and hopes that they will provide a firm basis for the even more challenging tasks that lie ahead.

it would appear that Privacy International have a very passionate following/belief in privacy of the individual.  Thats great, its an opinion and certainly one that should be respected.  Moving on now to another site, this time Privacy.org and we again see invasions of privacy mentioned.  What I haven’t seen any of these champions of privacy mention is todays news:

It is being reported by multiple [1,2,3] sources that after an appeal in the High Court, Sex offenders can apply to have their names removed from the sex offenders register and it having previously been stated that the register was incompatible with their human rights.  So Sex offenders are entitled to a right to a private/family life and challenge their continued inclusion on the register?

I don’t want this article to be a debate on the despicable crimes that people have committed to be on the list, but the question I have to ask is why are not the privacy groups celebrating this ruling?  Surely they must be happy?  Is this not want they wanted?  If it is, why are they not writing about it and if its not then how can they advocate “the right to a private life for some but not others”.

The reason I write this article is not to create a flame war between my opinions of surveillance and Privacy groups, its more to show that you CANNOT have an umbrella opinion on an issue without coming across exceptions like the one you see here.  Surely if the right to a family/private life is so important then privacy groups must champion those rights for everyone, sex offender or not?

I wonder if these privacy groups have left this news alone purely because they know it will lose them support?

I would be very interested to hear others views.  Personally I feel that putting people on the register for life is completely right, no exceptions. I think often people forget that there are victims in these crimes who have had THEIR rights abused in the most horrendous way, shouldn’t we be supporting them?

Freedom of data? – “All data should be free”?

Moving on from the upsetting topic above, I have a different example of campaign.  We often see cited that copyright laws are draconian, flawed and unworkable in modern day.  Thats fine its someones opinion.  There are many (when talking about copyright infringement) who champion it by saying that “data is not property” and you “cannot steal data” etc etc.  Noble statements in order to promote a pro-piracy cause.

My question though is this, where are they when personal details are lost from databases (as we saw recently in the news) surely this “data” is fine to fall into other peoples hands? Afterall if they don’t agree with copyright and don’t believe you can “steal” data what is the problem?  Additionally why do people have a problem with supermarkets/shops selling shopping habits to other interested companies? Surely nobody (in their opinion) owns this data so it should be in the public domain?  Nobody can own it and if we say that the “individual” owns this data (for whom it corresponds to) why do people who infringe copyright have a problem understanding that the material they share also belongs to someone else?  Double standards? I’d love to hear your view.

I would also like you to consider what you would do if say your personal journal was copied without your permission and distributed freely.  How would you feel?  Would you celebrate that under the opinion “All data should be free” or would you say “Hang on a minute, this data is mine, I don’t want it shared”

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About Tim Sparrow

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Privacy supporters remain quiet? & The hypocrisy of “data”?

  1. Goblin,

    Check out ‘Halting State’ by Charles Stross. It may give you some background, and I think you’ll like it, the action takes place near you.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 23, 2010, 3:12 am
  2. Sorry I haven’t been able to answer in detail before this, I’ve been having a battle with a Canadian Lawyer who thinks he’s a copyright expert – you can read all about it here, here, here, here, and here. As you can guess, I’m getting really unpopular in some quarters.

    Anyway, back to your post. Since you won’t have had time to read Charlie’s book yet, or consider the implications, let me lay out a couple of things.

    1) DRM is useless. I used to design DRM systems at one point in my checkered career, and from that I know a fair bit about breaking them.
    2) The sort of system that the RIAA/BPI/MPAA/MPA want would totally kill privacy. It would also totally kill Free Software, because Free Software is incapable of running any sort of a half way effective DRM system (while Vista and Seven have DRM baked into the Kernel, which makes it a bit more effective).
    3) Privacy is a bit more complex than you think. I’m not going to be caught tossing a bottle through a window like some drunken yob. I do however as a journalist have sources that I need to protect. The system that the RIAA/BPI/MPAA/MPA would make my job impossible.
    4) Freedom of Data means that the public knows what the government is doing. In the UK and Canada there is a concept called ‘Responsible Government’, which means that the government has to be responsible to the House of Commons, and the House of Lords/Senate. Also the representatives have to be responsible to their constituents. Without data, we don’t know what they are up to (think expenses scandal) and can’t hold their feet in the fire to make them behave.
    5) The court ruling about the sex offenders registry is interesting. There’s been an ongoing argument about how effective the registry is. Take for example a friend of mine, who I know was fucking his girlfriend when they were both 14. Technically under one set of laws this makes them both sex offenders, and they should be in the registry. Personally I think that’s bullshit. Yes, there do need to be rules, however politicians can’t be trusted to get it right, which is why both judges and juries can find against a law.

    It’s not a simple situation. In fact it’s a god damned complex situation, and one that needs an honest public consultation. Unfortunately there are politicians involved, and honesty goes out the door.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 25, 2010, 2:49 am
  3. Hi Mad Hatter!

    Firstly sorry your comment took a while to appear, the links you included caused Akismet to put it in “pending”.

    1. Agreed. DRM and any copy protection thats ever been created can be cracked – I think though the reasoning behind DRM (or any copy protection) is to delay the unauthorised distribution of the material and I think on the whole that works with the mainstream user. I think the ethos “its better than nothing” applies.

    2. Agreed again, although logistically to employ it over the diverse platform implimentations that are out there today, I think its unlikely.

    3. A point to discuss – If you are after the government being open and honest, freedom of information etc, what (hypothetically) gives you the right to hold your source information secret when the government is being held to account for the same thing?

    4. Agreed that an “open” government is good, but I don’t think a transparent one is. Just like in the case of your sources details, there is information which someone in government has made a judgment call that its sensitive. However in its basic form, some file sharers arguement is that you can’t steal data, so what would be the problem (in that case) of me copying your sources details and distributing them?

    5. In your example – it would depend on who is charged and convicted. If someone is convicted in court then they should be on the register. Its not possible to “blanket” legislate for every possible scenario, but up to the courts to judge each case on its merits.

    Posted by openbytes | April 25, 2010, 8:22 am
  4. Here’s another interesting article from the NY Times Computer breaches affecting information about organ donations in Britain and the public disclosure of names, addresses, ages and phone numbers of railway passengers in France have only accentuated concerns among Europeans that governments and companies cannot be trusted to keep potentially sensitive information under lock and key..

    My personal feeling is that government should have to prove the necessity for any collection of information, with hard and fast dates for the destruction of such information unless they can prove in court that they need to retain the information for a further period of time, unless the person in question has committed a crime which is related to the information.

    Of course my problem is that I’m paranoid, and I know that they are out to get me.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 30, 2010, 9:52 am
  5. Quote “My personal feeling is that government should have to prove the necessity for any collection of information, with hard and fast dates for the destruction of such information unless they can prove in court that they need to retain the information for a further period of time, unless the person in question has committed a crime which is related to the information.”

    I think if the information stored has no life saving value (as in the case of Organ donations) then it would be up to the body keeping the data to justify it.

    I think though the removal of data would not only prove a logistical nightmare but also an added cost to the tax payer if it needs to be re-collected in the future (for whatever reason)

    I think that the public confidence is securing of data is low and recent news reports do reveal that loss of data does happen. Also one would assume another body would need to be created in order to police these databases to ensure compliance, again at the cost to the taxpayer.

    I don’t personally see anything wrong with having many databases of my personal info, as long as I can have gaurantees that it is secure and will not fall into inappropriate hands.

    Posted by openbytes | May 1, 2010, 10:45 am
  6. Ah, now here’s an interesting article about the court case that made the VCR legal in the US. And yes, this is related.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | June 7, 2010, 2:31 am
  7. Tim,

    I’m posting this here because it’s the newest article that mentions CCTV cameras.

    Innocent man spent three months in jail after CCTV blunder cops mistook rose for knife

    This is disturbing – the guy spends three months in jail because the cops mistook a rose for knife. I think that he should sue their asses into oblivion.

    Wayne

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | August 31, 2010, 2:49 pm
    • I’d respond by saying that a few years back police shot dead a man who was carrying a chair leg which they thought was a weapon. There was no cctv involved in that case at all, yet a man lost his life for a mistake made by others.

      At the end of the day its human error not the tech which is at fault. If the material recorded is misinterpretted (and theres plenty of examples where eye witness not cctv have done the same) then its down to human error.

      Posted by openbytes | August 31, 2010, 10:18 pm
  8. Quote “CCTV doesn’t make society inherently safer. ”

    No, but it is another tool at the disposal of those seeking to get justice. To me you can’t have too much assistance in this respect, if you don’t use it, fine…but better that than not having the option to use it at all.

    Quote “and politicians all too often use the cheaper,”

    Thats probably true, although CCTV can assist with so much more than simply person to person street crime…..lost people, stolen vehicles, traffic management or merely to reassure some. ….

    Posted by openbytes | September 1, 2010, 8:41 am

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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