As predictable the different positions harden, the matadors dig their feet into the ground. The Obama administration sides very clearly with the FBI, questioning the demands of the civil society. Apple, as leader of the tech pack, defends its rights with both tooth and nail against the claims of the administration.
But the standoff is less entertaining as it sounds. It reflects the ongoing tries to balance the rights of the civil society for privacy with the needs of the state to fulfil its purpose. About 50 years ago, the question would have been decided very easily in favour of the governmental claims. The stance of the tech companies reflects an evolution in the understanding of privacy. In this meanwhile fierce fight, the pendulum currently leans more to the civil society, backed by the customers of the techies which as citizens are not comfortable with the current situation. The latest exchange of naughty arguments was about the FBI”s assertions, Apple would measure differently while giving China access to iPhone data. This assertion was countered by the iPhone producer, it had agreed to store date from its Chinese customers on Chinese soil, but “never made user data, whether stored on the iPhone or in iCloud, more technologically accessible to any country’s government”.
All this sounds like a grudge match and misses the point: What is the best solution possible to meet both justified demands? A new dynamic equilibrium has to be figured out. This is not the task of some lonely decisions by courts and will take discourses, studies and last not least, new technologies which can fulfil both claims: the government’s requirements to do its job and the civil society’s demands for privacy.
The blue chips of American Technology Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft are united to ward their customers from the authorities’ grip on privacy.
The goverment as well as some lawmakers argue, there is no alternative to the intrusion in citizen’s privacy with the purpose to prevent crimes and possible new terrorist events. That’s a point and despite all rhetorics against Apple, we should trust in the sincerity of the argument. On the other side, citizens fear, this argument is not half of the truth. The other half: the state systemically wants to have a foot in the privacy sphere of every citizen.
A mutual suspicion, mistrust. The comprehensible tensions of this confrontation are positive, demand all participants to work on viable solutions. The fight is not about winning or losing, it is to face the authorities with the civil society’s justified interests. In other words: there must be solutions for national security which do not intrude privacy.
A challenge with all involved technological, political, juridical aspects. Which finally will lead to security on the one side, privacy on the other side. No one should say from the beginning: ‘impossible’.
We should trust in a collaborative society which invents an automated car, declares the computer as a driver, to be able to develop appropriate solutions for this sensible issue too.
The refusal of the tech giants on behalf of their customers is the first step to ignite a “moonshot” in this respect. All in all, a victory for the civil society. This move could have influence far beyond the US territory, a role model for other democracies facing the same issue.
A new initiative addresses a topical issue: the use of big data. Initiators of the following principals:
1. Do not harm (sounds like Google)
2. Use data to help create peaceful coexistence
3. Use data to help vulnerable people and people in need
4. Use data to preserve and improve natural environment
5. Use data to help creating a fair world without discriminationare Roberto V. Zicari, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany and Andrej Zwitter, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Source: Data for Humanity
State and Science as trustees for our individual data?
On first sight a hodgepodge of human wellness wordings like basic civil rights, new social contract et. al. The intentions and interests of the scientists become evident when we get an understanding of their own goals: “…. in order to create sufficient transparency and trust, leading scientific institutions should exercise as a trustee of data and algorithms that currently evade democratic control. This also requires an appropriate code of ethics, at least all those who would have to acknowledge that receive access to sensitive data and algorithms – a kind of Hippocratic Oath for IT professionals. (Translation by Google).”
Finally the authors reveal their own interests, those of science organisations and their funders: give us (leading science organisations = experts) control over these processes and everything will be all right. Science and state as trustees? No, definitively not. This pivotal position, if any, should be designed and controlled by the civil society itself, not by the state and associated science organisations.
Data Mailbox – a helpful proposal
Sorry guys, but the melange of good will phantasies invalidates the good intentions.
The dire world the authors create, one of this sort: “To use technology to incapacitate the citizen. Big Nudging and Citizen scores abuse centrally collected personal data for behavioral control that carries totalitarian characteristics. …This is not only compatible with human rights and democratic principles, but also unfit to manage a modern, innovative company” is just an angst phantasy. No one is forced by totalitarian powers to use social media or Internet of Things devices; at least in the democratic world. It is the freedom of decision, my individual decision, not the gun of a tyrant at my head.
Are the proposals of the authors worthless? Just a variety of recycled wordings, goals which are formulated every era anew since the dawn of Enlightenment? One proposal has real value: “The author can imagine, for example, that a law for every citizen regulates the establishment of a “personal data mailbox” standardized format in which everything is fed what some companies about it or know him.” (FAZ, 10th January 2016 Translation: Google). Indeed this is a helpful proposal insofar as it contributes to data sovereignty.
Data Sovereignty is the key
The “Data for Humanity” project uses a variety of words and proposals just to express one single aim: Data Sovereignty. Indeed this distinguished goal will help as guideline for dealing with personal data. And it is not just a defensive, only rights securing motif. The development of individuality and data sovereignty are linked to each others. Therefore data sovereignty is essential for the wellbeing of individuals which are the base of every society. To assure these rights no excessive new legislation is needed, neither overreaching state regulations and state dependent scientific organisations. The civil society, individuals, companies, organisations comprised are strong and competent enough to deal with this issue, to handle the tasks, to finance the framework without state interference and using taxpayers money.