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Another take on Why Privly.

June 6, 2012

Why aren’t people demanding that all their electronic communications be encrypted? 

Mostly, I believe it’s because they have an illusion of privacy and until something happens that startles them and forces them to confront the lack of privacy they really have, they will continue to believe in the illusion.  Also, privacy, while not hard, does take some work, so unless you are really concerned about it, most folks just don’t bother.

And I’m like that too.  I don’t bother with encryption much these days – I played with PGP in the early 90’s, but these days it seems too hard and just not worth it.  That’s part of why I got interested in the Privly project – its goal is to make it easy to share privately.

You have a right to your privacy.  When you go to the bathroom, do you shut the door?  Everyone goes to the bathroom, there’s nothing unique about you.  Why do you prefer to be alone?  It’s part of our culture – it’s one of our activities that we generally expect to do privately.  Are there exceptions, sure but as a general rule we consider that a private moment.

You have a right to your privacy.  When you talk with your husband or wife in your house, you expect the conversation to be private.  You don’t expect hidden cameras or microphones spying on you.  Well, at least here in the United States we don’t.  Perhaps there are other places where you don’t expect privacy in your own house.

There are many many situations in the physical world where we have an expectation of privacy and generally those expectations are met.  In the online world, it’s a bit different.

Online, it feels like you are doing private things, because you sit in your home, or your office or whereever you might be and no one else is looking at your screen.  But all your communications go through wires (or wireless) to your internet connection and whomever owns (or can access legally or not) that router can see your packets going through.  Your ISP can see everything.  The upstream folks who interconnect between the ISPs can see the data.  Now realistically, many folks who are capable of the spying don’t bother looking, but the point is they don’t have to avert their eyes.  If they want to look they can.  And in addition to random individuals with access, sometimes the companies themselves may have an interest in montiroing you.  Or perhaps government agencies.

My concern isn’t that during a criminal investigation that with proper procedures followed that authorized law enforcement officers will search your materials.

My concern is that if we don’t do something, the lack of general privacy and the low expectation of privacy and teh understanding of how little privacy protection we operate under will be the norm – and spying / monitoring us will be considered normal.

When was the last time you read 1984?  Perhaps it’s time to read it again.


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