Privacy Is Ultimately about Liberty While Surveillance Is Always about Control

Good morning my relations. Today is not such a great day. In the United States the Obama administration is actively seeking a new law to legally mandate the forced introduction of insecure back doors and support for mass surveillance into all communication systems. Specifically targeted are Internet VoIP and messaging systems.

Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly challenge and defy any such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and personal dignity seem most threatened at present.

In the United States the 4th amendment did not come about simply because it was impractical to directly spy on everyone on such a large scale. Nor does it end simply because it may now be technically feasible to do so. Communication privacy furthermore is essential to the normal functioning of free societies, whether speaking of whistle-blowers, journalists who have to protect their sources, human rights and peace activists engaging in legitimate political dissent, workers engaged in union organizing, or lawyers who must protect the confidentiality of their privileged communications with clients.

However, to fully appreciate the effect of such surveillance on human societies, imagine being among several hundred million people who wake up each day having to prove they are not a “terrorist” by whatever arbitrary means the government has decided to both define the terms of such a crime and whatever arbitrary methods unknown to you that they might choose to define you as such, and where even your prosecution is carried out under the immunity of “state secrets” that all police states use to abuse of their own citizens. Such a society is one who’s very foundation is built on the premise of everyone being guilty until proven innocent and where due process does not exist. It is the imposition of such a illegitimate society that we choose to openly oppose, and to do so in this manner.

David Alexander Sugar is an active maintainer for a number of packages that are part of the GNU project. He has served as the voluntary chairman of the FSF's DotGNU steering committee and as the communities elected representative to the International Softswitch Consortium. He can be reached at: Read other articles by David, or visit David's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on September 28th, 2010 at 3:58pm #

    This is one of the reason why the property relation must be confronted. People accept the lack of privacy because they believe that the communication infrastructure is private property and believe in private property “rights” meaning that the owners can set up the rules and profit from those rules.

    Unfortunately too many computer developers and engineers subscribe to the Libertarian Capitalist ethic. It always amazes me how such logical thinkers can become irrational proponents when it comes to Capitalism.

  2. David Sugar said on September 28th, 2010 at 7:47pm #

    This may in part be because in western nations “rights” are perceived as something “granted” by a government through a piece of paper, much like a government might grant land or a property deed, and hence as something that can even be accumulated or otherwise made into an “artificially scarce commodity”, rather than as a natural human birthright and a basic human dignity, the way many of the peoples of the captive nations on our shared Turtle Island see human freedom.

  3. bozh said on September 29th, 2010 at 6:57am #

    Ownership of people,animals, land,sea and now also sky and air and water had been instituted millennia ago. It had it start probably in mesopotamia and egypt and by darkies.
    West merely emulated the east. Or was it the other way around? However and wherever people began to be owned and eventually became whores, the fact can be seen with naked eye that each one of us is owned to a diff degree.

    In fact [again using only eyes] one cannot own land de facto or de jure and not also own people.
    I said de jure, but in fact it is masters of people writing own diktats. For if u own land, it can happen only in a lawlesnesss.

    So this ought be the first lesson for any child: that it is owned along with its grandest person in the world, its dad, and then show it. Don’t use mouth to see–we have eyes for that; so tell it just to look.
    That’s all nature gave us and there is no extras! tnx