October 11th: Global Day of Action against Data Retention

Today, October 11th, marks a global day of action against Data Retention [1]. We wish to show our solidarity and support those who are being forced by the by the E.U. Directive 2006/24/EC to participate in pre-emptive surveillance of communications infrastructure. ISPs in Europe are being forced by this Directive to be involuntary agents of the police, to store your communications data. We wish to voice our dissent of this attack on privacy and demonstrate our strong support and solidarity for those who fight against this apalling turn of events.

The communication networks of the coming decades are being built now, and we have an important decision to make: will the infrastructure of the future be one that supports freedom or one that is designed to facilitate surveillance and control?

Currently, our communication systems are being redesigned in order to build a spectacularly efficient machine for maintaining total social control. This work is being done by the democratic governments of the world, and the UN, in the name of law enforcement. These governments have a problem: the internet and new communication technologies are undermining their capacity for lawful surveillance. Their solution to this problem has been to attempt total surveillance of all communication and to require that every internet server becomes a data gathering arm of the government.

The new technologies of packet switching, digitization, and encryption are fundamentally different from the communication technologies of the past. Where once it was expensive and difficult to gather surveillance data on a particular person, now one can gather detailed data on millions of people with the push of a button. At the same time, these new communication systems can also be designed to make surveillance almost impossible. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground: either we build systems that are secure or we build systems that are deeply flawed, easily abused, and lend themselves to social control.

The old compact with the democratic states is over: there is no longer an option of limited state surveillance. We must choose between greatly diminished state surveillance or the capacity of total state surveillance. This is simply the nature of the new communication technology.

We demand:

  • Freedom of Expression: Everyone must be able to communicate anonymously and privately. Our computers must not become outsourced extensions of the state police. We must not be required to gather and archive the communication data of our users. We must not be required to allow back-door access to the government to listen in on anyone’s communication.
  • Freedom of Association: Everyone must be able to associate freely without the government tracking and monitoring the network of whom we associate with. We must be allowed to use communication tools that do not reveal the sender and recipient. The government must not be allowed, legally or technically, to build a map of how our social movements are organized.

Much of the new surveillance we can fight with the voluntary adoption of better protocols. Other aspects of the new surveillance we must fight through political organizing, in the courts, in the streets, and by active disobedience to the law.

The stakes in this struggle are too high. We must work now to keep open the ability of social movements to communicate privately and freely. If we do not, we have surrendered our ability to resist governments, corporations, and injustice for many years to come.

For more information about the global day of action, see Freedom Not Fear [1].

[1] http://freedom-not-fear.eu