Bruce Schneier on the false dichotomy between privacy and security.

29 January 2008

If I ever get around to having children, I might name my first boy after Bruce Schneier because he's got a lot more on the ball than I ever will. This time around, Schneier has weighed in on the privacy versus security debate in US policy and why it's not really debatable in the manner it's being presented in because personal privacy and national security are not, in fact, opposed to one another. His commentary was provoked by Michael McConnell (Director of National Intelligence) stating in the 21 January 2008 edition of the New Yorker that he wanted to monitor all traffic on the Internet inside the US that they could get their hands on: All e-mails, all web searches, and content from every website that you visit. McConnell also made a very interesting statement: "Privacy and security are a zero-sum game."

In other words, for one player to win, another player must lose.

Schneier cogently makes the point that personal privacy and security are not, in fact, contradictory. To have one, you don't have to give up the other, and he explains the reasons for it better than I can (so I'll direct you to his article and not reprint them here). He also mentions that the government would then be responsible for safeguarding all of the information that they gather on everyone, which as we all know they aren't very good at.

It isn't too hard to find out who our senators and congresscritters are. Track them down and call them, write them, fax them, and e-mail them about this and ask them to stop it. In fact, tell them to stop it - they are supposed to represent the will of the people after all. We don't work for them, they are elected by us to work for us. Either they listen to the will of the people, or the people stop voting for them and back someone else who will. Better yet, threaten to stop sending them campaign contributions - if it's one thing they'll listen to, its a threat to their bankbooks.