The Subject of Privacy

I don’t think these are wars on anything, but over. Privacy is not a binary, it’s a balance and crypto is not much different - governments are going to have decide what balance they’re willing to accept.

I don’t think that’s quite right. When used metaphorically in the context I did, it’s common to describe it as a war on something. Synonymous with against.

Privacy is my field, and I’ve written and contributed to many peer reviewed papers on the topic. The actions of western governments have been commonly accepted and referred to by my peers, experts on the matter, as a war on privacy. Their actions are typically against the subject, not against someone else over said subject. It certainly doesn’t help that both prepositions have been adopted to be used interchangeably to more or less mean the same thing. Weird thing to dispute!

I strongly disagree. Privacy either exists, or it doesn’t. There is no in between, and that rings true for the privacy aspects of crypto. It’s either private, or it’s not. Though it may be possible to fix its issues without compromising the more private nature.

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Government already allows cash, which is actually very very good for money laundering and a whole host of illegal activities including terrorist funding in fact

So to concur, cryptos are about the next step down in privacy from cash, since there’s a public ledger about each transaction

Would also agree with this, it’s the whole reason I went into CyberSec; to learn how to avoid overly strict government control and surveillance.

Governments are not for privacy, they just want to pretend terrorism is a big enough issue that they can get away with eroding it.

Fun fact, currently the US has so much data that they cannot effectively process it, in fact. They’re just waiting for technology to catch up to it, GCHQ is probably the same.



Privacy is a broad topic that deserves its own discussion in all honesty. Probably not best suited on here given the political implications and discussions that can result from discussions on privacy.

To clarify when I said earlier that privacy is not a binary thing. Although true, there are often other factors that coincide with privacy that can result in differing degrees of privacy, and that too will depend on what context privacy is being used, and how it’s being defined. It’s therefor possible for something to have a greater degree of privacy, without actually being private, which is how I would define crypto in its current form when comparing it to card payments.

As an example, a decentralised unencrypted communication platform (sms) has a greater degree of privacy compared to a centralised version thanks to its nature of being decentralised. But it’s not private.

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I assumed you had just mistakenly missed this point :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:. As a binary total privacy option simply does not exist anywhere and never will (but I had wondered if you were talking about individual privacy points and not privacy as a whole). Privacy is always about a level of balance that the individual feels happy with.

Interestingly I’ve never heard ‘the war of privacy’ all that much in the industry, perhaps we work in slightly different areas :grin:

Terrorism is a real problem, how data is managed and handled isn’t an easy problem. I think sometimes politicians don’t really fully understand the technology, but there are a level of checks and balances in the current legislation.(doesn’t mean people can’t disagree with it as it stands)

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Sure is, but it’s not an excuse to implement mass surveillance. It’s an excuse to put more police on the ground and to have more armed units stationed throughout our counties so we can have a faster response time

Pair that with very reasonable surveillance of known suspects or people with a past, along with those who are at risk (for instance those highlighted by teachers etc in schools) of becoming involved in terrorism

And yeah sure there are checks and balances but let’s not pretend they’re good enough. The de facto standard of privacy should be Switzerland pre-banking scandals

In your opinion

Depends what you mean by this. Some would say the way the current system works is reasonable surveillance of these suspects.

Opinions can be right and opinions can be wrong, I’d like to assert that as we have a right to privacy, my opinion is correct

Literally what I said, those:

  1. with a history of being involved in terrorism and those connected to them
  2. People identified under terrorism watching programs like the one schools use (where they highlight extremist ideas and then flag this to central government)
  3. people that we have good Intel on that we realistically believe they are involved with it, until we either a) find out they aren’t or b) find they are, then they revert to 1

That’s what we do now

This is essentially what I’m getting at. My approach is to take a whole concept and break it down into its various components. It’s the individual components I view as being a binary thing (depending on how I’m defining privacy in that context of course). End to end encryption as one example makes things private in transit. That’s an absolute. One might argue differing levels of encryption make the privacy it provides a non-binary thing, but to that I say encryption is too, a binary thing. It’s either secure, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy, so not private.

A one time pad system is a simple example of an encryption method that grants content absolute privacy that cannot be broken. It does rely on external factors though that may weaken or render the privacy gains irrelevant, but the actual technique itself is sound. It makes whatever you have encrypted private.

Privacy can also be described as people having clear and express control and say over their own data and information, and in that context, it definitely is not binary.

Does that explain my angle better? I’ll leave it there either way to not detract further from the discussion on blocking crypto! :laughing:

Given what I’ve learned about you through our discussions over the years, I don’t think we’re in dramatically different areas! I’m a software engineer, and I’ve dabbled in just about everything from machine learning neural networks to basic static websites. My speciality though is in cyber security, cryptology specifically and I’m more interested in networking than software these days. The peers I’m referencing though are privacy researchers in academia, but it’s not as though the term war on privacy is a common report title that you’d see in headlines, it’s just a term that succinctly describes what some proposals that have come out of governments are. They’re not going to war over privacy necessarily, but rather appear to be declaring war on the concept of it itself, and it’s existence as a basic human right.

Personally, I think it’s fascinating that something as simple as someone’s choice of preposition in their metaphor can spark some interesting discourse. The English language is frustratingly fascinating, that’s for sure.

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Ignoring the mass surveillance I’m sure you’re right

But that’s actually the issue, the mass surveillance. The rest of it is very reasonable

Mass data collection is a form of mass surveillance is it not?

Privacy International define mass surveillance as

Mass surveillance involves the acquisition, processing, generation, analysis, use, retention or storage of information about large numbers of people, without any regard to whether they are suspected of wrongdoing.

Assuming they’re analysing the data they collect (I don’t know if they are, and they certainly could be given what I’ve read in the Snowden files), then that to me feels like mass surveillance. Just because we’re not distinctly aware of them doing it, doesn’t meant they are not, though neither does it mean they are.

We each should draw our own assumptions in that regard and conduct ourselves accordingly.

Perhaps the privacy stuff should be split out into its own topic, providing the discussion remains as apolitical as possible. I think it’s been a safe yet invigorating discussion so far.

Data collection in its self no. Mass surveillance may depend on exactly how that data is processed or used.

We know how the likes of gchq gather data, and the topic is pretty complex as we’re considering various data sources and various ways of analysing it.

The difference between mass surveillance or not I would say is in if they’re looking for crimes without a warrant over the whole population or if they’re looking over a large data set for specific crimes from specific individuals. If you look at the legislation and information available on the scope of their powers it’s generally the latter. You can’t just use the data without the appropriate approval.

Oversight etc has been improved and can imo be improved further, the related laws could also likely be made simpler and clearer.

A good idea I think


@Graham you missed my last post, I just posted it :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Edit: Thanks

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You beat me to it :rofl:

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Correct me if I’m wrong but I recall U.K. law allowing for warrants to be rather broad, covering a large amount of potentially unnecessary people or data that isn’t required

Furthermore I would say that regardless we aren’t very good at privacy in the U.K. we break our own law, in fact. For instance Privacy Intl has been taking the government to court for the mass data collection & requiring Virgin etc to maintain records for an unreasonable period of time

Good on them! Of all the big ISPs Virgin seem to be the only ones that are openly against these things getting imposed on them. There’s a lot of dissent amongst the higher ups there, or at least their used to be when my friend worked there!

Remember when we used to be apart of the EU? This stuff was against EU law too, and they too took our government to court.

I’m not sure if we still have those same safeguards in law now we’ve left (not familiar with the rules). I certainly hope we do, what little good they actually do, but at least they’re something for the eventuality they get caught out breaking them again.

ETA: found this resource from back in the day. Let’s you check if you’re defined by the governments very broad definition of extremism. If you do, then you’re subject to potential surveillance, though at the time they did promise not to abuse the power they granted themselves with very broad and vague rules. It really emphasises why privacy is so important, because it’s a safeguard against things like this.

Yeah, I’m done under Terrorism Act 2006 since iirc Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation

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