he US Congress has recently enacted the ‘Freedom Act’ setting limits to the National Security Agency (NSA) when collecting mass data on US citizens. In May, France has also approved a surveillance bill that allows the Government to capture and analyze metadata sent over telecom networks (among other rules). The US Act and the French response have to do with an increasing worry of the population in the world towards online privacy. Noticeably, it provides a space for free expression — without which, users would be led to an unavoidable tendency to self-censor. But the worries go beyond the 24% of people in the UK who do not trust what others do with their data; or half of young people who stated they were “extremely” or “very concerned” by online privacy (more so than about immigration, environmental or tax issues). The act also responds to the requirements of those who look for a utopian paradise of individual freedom to escape to from the hands of the “evil” State or their hyperattentive neighbors. If the Government can’t monitor you, said Cypherpunks’ leader Tim May in 1993, it cannot control you.
The solution offered is based on computer systems that could assure more reliability for individual freedom, from child porn users or terrorists to your aunt from Minnesota, than ‘man-made laws’. In the meantime, while for the left, surveillance may undermine individual rights, the right is more concerned with feeding the State apparatchiks. But the online privacy gap brought into public awareness by Edward Snowden got May’s Cyphernomicon Manifesto into today’s cross-cutting traditional public political agenda. Paradoxically, even these cypherpunks mostly reject democracy and find in encryption a way to subvert popular vote decisions. Nonetheless, the sure winners here are the technological supporters that hope for a ‘secret and private on-line’ status. Internet companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Google or Twitter offer their services for free but not without a cost. Our data is part of the currency. And say hello to that camera in front of you.
Surveillance vs. Privacy Rages On, 2 Years After Snowden by Voice of America