Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sensible privacy ruling

It isn't always bad news, sometimes those in power get it right.

Bruce Schneier reports on a good ruling from the German Constitutional Court: the court rejected a state's law allowing investigators to covertly search computers online, finding them to be a severe violation of privacy. Instead the court declared that searching PCs need to be treated like telephone wiretaps and similar such exceptions to the expectation of privacy.

More here.

Schneier also discusses David Brin's "The Transparent Society", and why transparency on its own is not enough to protect people from abuse at the hands of the powerful. David Brin responds, but sadly completely misses the point of the imbalance of power made by Schneier: in the restaurant analogy that Brin favoured, all the patron's have roughly equal power.

UPDATE, 16/3/08: I'm liking those Germans more and more. The High Court has put a stop to British-style total surveillance of car number plates. The surveillance laws were described by one German newspaper as having "all the hallmarks of a totalitarian state, which wants to know everything about everyone, suspect or not, without cause and without limitation", and the High Court seemed to agree.

The ruling isn't a complete win for citizens, with the court declaring that "random samples" were allowed, and scanning of cars crossing the border, but at least the German government isn't hell-bent on returning to the days of Stasi domination, unlike the British government.

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