Surveillance infrastructure can be exported, which also aids totalitarianism around the world. Western companies like Siemens, Nokia, and Secure Computing built Iran’s surveillance infrastructure. U.S. companies helped build China’s electronic police state. Twitter’s anonymity saved the lives of Iranian dissidents — anonymity that many governments want to eliminate.
Every year brings more Internet censorship and control — not just in countries like China and Iran, but in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and other free countries.
The control movement is egged on by both law enforcement, trying to catch terrorists, child pornographers and other criminals, and by media companies, trying to stop file sharers.
It’s bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state. No matter what the eavesdroppers and censors say, these systems put us all at greater risk. Communications systems that have no inherent eavesdropping capabilities are more secure than systems with those capabilities built in.
August 3, 2009
Building in Surveillance
[Schneier doesn’t mention this but the concept of “bad civic hygiene” has wider application than just surveillance technology. It also applies to the TSA, gun control, and even government provided health care (do you want health care decisions for gays made by people like Fred Phelps–or vice versa?). It’s another way of expressing concern about failures of my Jews In The Attic Test.
Some people have a lot of concern about Microsoft contributing to this sort of thing. I have been, and am, involved in projects that have the potential to cause concern. I have been very pleased to see that not only the corporate policy is appropriate to protect innocents but also the attitude of the people I work with is on par with my standards in this regard.–Joe]