From freedom to equality to total surveillance

von Martin Bostelmann

 

 

”We do it for your security,” say the states and secret services. Reassuring works to justify the rather homoeopathic results of mass surveillance measures. If they really prevented
terrorism and crime, then the PR departments for the respective agencies would surely know to start with that and would surely make high-profile use of the good news.

In 2012, a study by the New America Foundation found that the mass surveillance, collection and evaluation of metadata from telephone conversations has played a demonstrable role in the fight against terrorism in a maximum of 1.8 per cent of cases since 9/11. According to a study by the Federal Criminal Police Office, the controversial issue of data retention has improved the clearance rate for terrorist offences, currently at 55 per cent in Germany, by an unbelievable 0.006 per cent – in statistical terms.

In another sector, the implications of non-selective mass surveillance have had a significant effect. Socially, in particular, they have been a disaster.According to the CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey, 61 percent of internet users are worried that the police or other government institutions in their own country are monitoring their online activities. 28 per cent are already censoring what they say online themselves. As a consequence, we deny ourselves the fundamental principles of democracy such as the right to freely form and express opinions. Little by little we thus give up our freedom.

The post-Snowden era

Benjamin Franklin said, in 1775: ‘Anyone who gives up liberty for safety will lose both.’ Nevertheless, and despite the NSA scandal, more surveillance and, at the same time, a prohibition on the countermeasure, encryption, is called for in almost all Western countries. As a result, cryptography is the only effective tool with which you can protect yourself against surveillance and data theft.

After the secret service scandal, a brief murmur went round the world - but nothing more. Still today, the average person has no easy option for encrypting their communication and their data, much less for keeping their metadata under control. The question arises: why aren't there any usable tools yet?