Since Internet has become a huge communication platform for million of people, some badly disposed-people have discovered, that they can take advantage of it. The motives for such activities are very different : from the hacker, who wants to help companies to enhance their IT-security, to people who download mp3’s, from terrorists, to people who counterfeit Vuitton bags and sell it on eBay, these people all break laws daily and are seen as a threat.
In order to fight them, some governments try to catch the authors, not by investigating only them, but by controlling the whole Internet traffic on their soil.
Chinese authorities forbid access to some websites made by opponents to the regime or Tibetan activists. You cannot reach them if you are connected through a Chinese official Internet provider (you can see if your website is available from China). Nonetheless, much nearer from us, in Europe, both French and German governments – both surprisingly democratic countries – plan to introduce new laws, in order to reduce considerably the privacy of their citizens.
In Germany, the Minister of Interior Department, Wolfgang Schäuble, proposed to install a Trojan horse on every personal computer in Germany, so that authorities can exactly know what is going on on it and have access to the hard disks.
In France, according to the newspapers “Le Monde“, a new law project has been proposed, in which the whole Internet data traffic (i.e. all data, credit card numbers, passwords, contents, logins. etc…) must be saved, either by the Internet providers, or by those who offer services on the web. Not only judges and policemen of the judiciary police will have the right to check it, but any administration ( the RG -the intelligence department of the French police- for instance ) and that, without any legal control.
Both projects are a real nightmare for anyone. who cares for his privacy and liberties. People who think, they have nothing to hide, are wrong. Because if you give up freedom in the name of fighting criminality, you take the risk of giving up much more freedoms, for the same reasons.
The postal secrecy is guaranteed in most democratic countries, why would this right not apply for emails ?
Democracy and civil rights are not just a matter of some activists in the third world ! It is an issue, people must daily fight for. Nothing is acquired and we are all concerned about it.
These initiatives remind me the book of George Orwell “1984”, in which all citizen are supervised. As soon as they express any opinion against the regime, they disappear. Of course, this book is primarily a criticism against the communism and it cannot be transposed directly to our western societies, but it is an interesting introduction in how you can direct people and control what they are doing.
The Internet is known to be one of the greatest factors of economical growth during the last five years. If all data were stored, a lot of citizens would mistrust the actors of the new economy. Moreover, most of the companies would have to pay a lot of money in order to improve their storage capacity and this could reduce their competitiveness.
In the end, this freedom-killing policy will not be a serious obstacle for terrorists who plan an attack. When I see, how easy it is to buy a cell phone (My name is officially Jaqes Macy for Vodafone in Germany), I think this is really not a problem to obtain one with forged identity papers. All those measures will not just be inefficient, but they also will create mistrust and, in the end, limit the economic growth of the whole country.
Of course, terrorists sites and, in general, illegal content must be forbidden, but this must be done without treating the privacy and the freedoms of the Internet users so badly.