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Privacy advocates: two weights, two measures

While I don’t want to say that all privacy advocates are the bad kind of crybabies that I described on my previous post there are certainly a lot I would call hypocrite when it gets to things like the loyalty schemes I already wrote about.

So as I said on that post, the main complain about loyalty scheme involve possible involvement with bad government (in which case we have a completely different problem), and basically have to do with hypothetical scenarios of a dystopian future. So what they are afraid of is not the proper use of the tool that is loyalty schemes, but of their abuse.

On the other hand, the same kind of persons advocate for tools like Tor, Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve or FreedomBox. These tools are supposed to help people fight repressive governments among others, but there are obvious drawbacks. Pirates use the same technologies. And so do cybercriminals (and other kind of criminals too).

Where I see a difference is that while even the Irish Times struggled to find evidence of the privacy invasion, or governmental abuse of loyalty schemes (as you probably noticed they had to resort complaining about a pregnant teenager who was found out through target advertising), it’s extremely easy to find evidence of the cyber organized crime relying on tools like Liberty Reserve. Using the trump card of paedophiles would probably be a bad idea, but I’d bet my life on many of them doing so.

Yes of course there are plenty of honest possible uses you could have for these technologies, but I’d also think that if you start with the assumption that your government is not completely corrupted or abusive (which, I know, could be considered a very fantastic assumption), and that you don’t just want to ignore anti-piracy laws because you don’t like them (while I still agree that many of those laws are completely idiotic, I have explained my standing already), then the remaining positive uses are marginal, compared to the criminal activities that they enable.

Am I arguing against Tor and FreedomBox? Not really. But I am arguing against things like MegaUpload, Liberty Reserve and Bitcoin — and I would say that most people who are defending Kim Dotcom and the likes of him are not my peers. I would push them together with the religious people I’m acquainted with, which is to say, I keep them at arm’s length.

Comments 1
  1. I think none of this applies much to loyalty schemes, so I might be arguing completely besides your point but anyway…I’d also like to point out that I am mostly arguing to give a different perspective, and not necessarily for my own opinion.I find your arguments kind of strange, in particular about trusting “the government”.There is the problem that there isn’t “the government” but there are thousands and thousands of people, and trusting _all_ of them seems fairly dumb to me.If you want proof I’d have to search for it, but I believe that people investigating police usage of things like crime and car registers has show that they are in significant number used for private investigation, things like looking up your neighbour etc.I personally believe that if you give access to data to a large number of people (which probably isn’t the case for loyalty schemes), it will be misused, and I find it hard to even blame the people, humans are too curious to resist when accessing information has no consequence and does not seem to do any harm.Now I guess it is a different question if you consider this a problem, but I do think it is. Many people do have something to hide (though far more people believe so mistakenly), and I believe they generally should be able to. Though I admit I am in particular thinking of former criminals, which probably is touchy subject in itself.Btw. I also don’t see any contradiction in arguing for Bitcoin but against loyalty cards. Just one example of arguing is that Bitcoin removes power from government, banks, companies while loyalty cards gives companies more information and thus power (not arguing whether it is a relevant amount here). If you simply believe that all of these already have more power than they need/should have and don’t think a few criminals getting a bit more power is a problem it seems like a fairly consistent argument. I.e. not abuse is the problem, but potential abuse by a groups considered too powerful already.However if one like you seem to only look at the _current and real_ issues such a stance can’t make sense to you. But it looks completely different if you analyse it from a _potential threat_ perspective, a government going bad can cause a massive amount of damage, and from that perspective it makes sense to support something that is has only marginal good uses (like Bitcoin) but be against something that has probably never been misused (loyalty schemes).Also what concerns Kim Dotcom I do wonder what kind of people you think of and in what way they defend him. I certainly “defend” him in the way that I don’t find it acceptable for people to advocate (!) him being mistreated in some US prison as a good thing (yes, a German news article essentially wrote that some time ago). And the Rainbow Warrior (Greenpeace) history illustrates what you can expect when NZ’s justice system and a strong-arming foreign power collide, the justice system doesn’t necessarily win (though comparing this to a terrorist act by the French government is maybe hyperbole). I also think that having sites judged (from a legal perspective) by whether it has “enough good uses” is a bad thing, if that was the legal theory to prevail things like YouTube probably would have been shut down at at least one point. None of this implies that I think he’s doing anything good or noteworthy though.

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