Tag Archives: Freedom

A little bit of paranoia is always good

I use some Google services (such as Gmail) and I respect Google’s focus on innovation and its contribution to some Free software projects, but I must admit that I try to be as careful as possible when it comes to privacy. For instance, I tend to use OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps when I look for a simple map. I use Firefox instead of the default web browser on my Android phone and I never let the Android’s GPS enabled when I do not use it.

However, Google will soon introduce a new privacy policy, that worries me. So far, your research history was not combined with other Google products. They could not combine your feed reader or Google plus account to target their ads towards what they think you were looking for in their search engine. With the new privacy policy, this separation stops and Google will use all its possible data to match your search or action to target their ads even more.

One simple step to avoid that is to follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s advice to have Google stop saving your search history. Do it ! It takes just a couple of seconds and your privacy will thank you (a bit).

And if you want to go a bit further, the EFF’s 6 privacy tips will also help you keep your data for yourself !

Big Brother is watching you

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.