the satellite blog

a different point of view

the satellite blog header image 2

Stop watching us!

July 20th, 2013 by L'auteur · Keine Kommentare

Hide-and-seek is no solution…

The internet activist Jacob Applebaum talked on the 15th evening of net policy, planned by the Digitale Gesellschaft (digital society) in Berlin, about the power and doings of the NSA, and about possibilities to protect oneself from this data mining. He seemed to be somehow crestfallen, because of the disclosures about the dimensions of data storage and also the denial of Snowden’s application for asylum in Germany, which Applebaum just entered to live in a less restricted atmosphere. Also his final agitating words like

I can’t really imagine another city anywhere in the world and people other than you that are gonna be able to help turn this around in Germany right now, especially in Berlin.

were somehow glazed with resignation. Nevertheless, his diagnosis of the situation delivered a differentiated picture of mass-surveillance issues. Not only the violation of privacy is at stake, even more important seems to be the fact, that secret services have the power to author certain narrations about individuals based on their meta data and contacts, narrations that might be true or false and can be criminalized, if needed.

His concept of protection against the erosion of civic rights by mass surveillance were mostly technical and informed by his work at the Tor project. The answer therefore is: cryptography. Encrypting emails, surfing and calling anonymously, developing and using different, encrypted channels of communication. This is because the willingness of users to share their data everywhere and especially with big companies is one of the biggest cornerstone of surveillance. From Applebaums point of view, the time has come to demand of my vis-à-vis to communicate safely – as well as it has become more common to insist on safer sex (Applebaum himself states correctly, that his Aids metaphor is at least problematic).


“This is going to buy you time” – yes, but on which cost and how much time? Can we ask every user – most of them not even capable to use office software correctly – to learn about cryptographic methods, just until the next NSA program can also decode those? What do we do with our telephones, letters and mobile phones? How subversive a solution can be that corresponds with the program of the conservative Minister of the Interior Friedrich, who thinks that data protection is a civic duty? Don’t we witness in both statements a dangerous tendency of depoliticization that wants to outsource the crisis of political institutions to the citizen? For whisleblowers, journalists and hackers there will be no alternative to cryptography. But it can’t be the right way for the totality of citizens to hide behind technical solutions – on the contrary: they should go on the streets to ask for political solutions and demand the protection of basic rights publically. A hidden society seems to be as much undesirable as a monitored one.

Or as Sascha Lobo, a famous german blogger, said, in reaction of Mr. Friedrich’s capitulation: “No citizen has the duty to encrypt in order to protect his basic rights.” The time has come to remember politics about its responsibility.

Tags: Berlin · Germany · network policy