It seems that our generation will be known as the generation who decides if people will still have privacy in the future or not. Will people still have the tools to protect their digital lives in the same way their are able to protect their analog lives? Over the centuries people figured out ways to lock their home for strangers, protect their family life, their money transactions, keep their sexual orientation and health record private and protect everything else they didn’t want to share.
The end game about tools that allow us to protect our digital life in the same way has just begun and we all decide how it will end.
The first battle is between the FBI and Apple. Obviously Apple has a business interest to position itself as the privacy aware alternative to other big IT companies which are in the business of monetizing user data. But this doesn’t make Apples position less right or important. Unfortunately it seems that the public opinion in most of the western world has already shifted towards a society with more surveillance and less privacy and freedom. This is thanks to the media and politicians who are talking about a possible and diffuse terrorist threads especially in the last 15 years.
Clowns like Donald Trump and John McAfee don’t help either to start a meaningful conversation about core values of our societies.
We need a big broad discussion about the values of our democracies and the free world. There can’t be a real democracy and a free society without privacy. The question is if we really want to give this up in exchange for potential better security through broad surveillance which doesn’t make our lives saver as shown by countless studies.
In addition we in the IT and computer community have to get our act together and deliver tools that are secure, safe and easy to use.
There should be open source and free software alternatives available to all the important use-cases around communication and data sharing and management.
These tools need to be build in a decentralized and federated way to avoid single point of failure or control by one central instance.
We have to stop advertising encryption and security tools that don’t deliver real security but are mainly snake oil.
We have to fix our processes to deliver security fixes and patches to everyone in no time. Android and Linux Distributions have some opportunities for improvements as shown here.
We need funding for key components like OpenSSL, Tor, GPG and more to avoid the next heartbleed like disaster.
We live in critical times. If we all want to be able to protect our digital lives and privacy in the future then we need the necessary tool to do that in the same way you can buy a strong door lock to protect your house. And we need the mindset that our digital data and communication deserves the same protection as our physical goods. This is described in the user data manifesto.