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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The false dichotomy of privacy (or liberty) v. security

Think that we all have to give up some privacy to be safe from the 21st century threats of terrorism? You must work for the Bush Administration:
In order for cyberspace to be policed, internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with [Director of National Intelligence] McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. "Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation," he said. Giorgio warned me, "We have a saying in this business: 'Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'"
Most accept that dichtomy, says Bruce Schneier. Problem is, it's a false one. He starts with several examples, such as stronger cockpit doors on airplanes or deadbolt locks on homes. There's no loss of privacy.

Instead, the only conflicts occur when security involves issues of identity (e.g. national ID cards). And in these cases, the government has either lied or misled the public about their effectiveness. The most effective security measures are the few immediate post-9/11 ones:
Since 9/11, two -- or maybe three -- things have potentially improved airline security: reinforcing the cockpit doors, passengers realizing they have to fight back and -- possibly -- sky marshals. Everything else -- all the security measures that affect privacy -- is just security theater and a waste of effort.
For more, read his entire 2-page essay.

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