The privacy endgame

Posted by on Feb 21, 2016 in KDE, ownCloud, politics, privacy | 7 Comments

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.


  1. maaaaaaaaaaartin


    Many thanks for your work, and your wise words. One comment though: you say “This is thanks to the media and politicians who are talking about a possible and diffuse terrorist threats”; on the other hand you often seem to be talking about a possible and diffuse governmental threat—I understand that (similar point than the one you’re making about Apple) you have business interest in privacy issues. Anyway, there is probably some terrorist threat (I live in Paris) and some governmental threat… How to evaluate their relative importance? And is there a way to fight both? Thanks again for all you’ve done.


  2. joncr

    Allowing FBI access to one phone used by acknowledged, and dead, mass murderers is not in any way an invasion of anyone’s privacy.

    Apple is spinning, for image and profit, when it says allowing access to that one phone would destroy privacy for every iPhone customer.

    • Frank Karlitschek

      This is about the question if it is possible and legal for people to be able to encrypt data and communication in a way that it is not possible for anyone else to read.

  3. YourChoice

    “Allowing FBI access to one phone used by acknowledged, and dead, mass murderers is not in any way an invasion of anyone’s privacy.”

    Creating a backdoor destroys the privacy of all iphone owners because the backdoor will be exploited. The FBI has demonstrated its incompetency with the way they handled the online backup. Therefore the FBI should be given less power, not more, and the FBI guys who messed up the investigation should be fired.

  4. STiAT

    Well, in my opinion this is a double edged sword. Even though, I understand the need of relatives and friends that they want to know what happened and why, but as tragic as this was, you couldn’t prevent it. If the FBI and others get tools like this, they’d move to other tools protecting their privacy. So the effect of something like this would be temporary at best, but a pose a high risk to privacy of the rest of the world.

    I do not have anything to hide, if they want they can just ask me, but I see surveilance and missing privacy pose a high risk to democracy and personal freedom, since as much as this could help to solve issues, it poses a high risk of abuse – and this methods being used to control people and opinion rather than to protect their way of living.

  5. Laszlo Papp

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. I personally agree with you.

    Moreover, I think authorities do not even have to work very hard to “eliminate” privacy.

    In fact, when people go to facebook, linkedin, dating sites and what not, they pretty much give their privacy away by their choice to a certain extent.

    I am really surprised and disappointed that I cannot make things more private on the aforementioned sites.

    Therefore, I prefer email, IRC, etc, for communication. While, it is quite likely that some authorities still get my private data via those, I see those less dramatic than the aforementioned “social” sites.

    Where has our digital private life gone?

  6. ownCloud -> Nextcloud – NOVATREND Blog

    […] Im April diesen Jahres veröffentlichte er den Blogeintrag: big changes: I am leaving ownCloud, Inc. today und OwnCloud Inc. antwortete mit einem Blogeintrag: Thank You, Frank Karlitschek. Danach verliessen mehr und mehr Entwickler die Firma ownCloud. Am 2. Juni gab es erneut einen Blogeintrag in Karlitscheks Blog, in dem er bekanntgab, einen Fork von ownCloud mit dem Namen Nextcloud zu starten (Blogeintrag: Nextcloud). Der Fokus von Nextcloud soll darauf liegen, Nutzern die komplette Hoheit über ihre Daten zu geben. In diesem Zusammenhang gibt es auch einen interessanten Blogeintrag von Frank aus Februar 2016 The privacy endgame. […]


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