Politicians, Stop the Push for More Surveillance. Snooping on Everyone Won’t Protect Us.

After the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, politicians around the world are - again - pushing for more surveillance laws. In doing so they neglect a simple truth: Mass surveillance does not increase security.

On top of that, politicians waste no time in exploiting this tragedy for their own cause: to pass anti-privacy laws they have wanted for years. Instead of strengthening French values - Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité - they want to undermine the human rights of all citizens and build an immense surveillance apparatus from which nothing can be hidden. One of the saddest things about this is that up to today, there is no proof that the surveillance done by Secret Services was able to hinder terrorist attacks.

Instead of watching the forest, police should focus on the trees

Instead, after each attack, it is revealed that most of the attackers were already known to the officials. Most terrorists have already been under some sort of surveillance, yet, no one predicted their attacks, no one stopped their horrible crimes. The only reasonable conclusion politicians should draw from this is that Secret Services and police forces need better ways to narrow down who of all possible threats is most likely the next attacker. This will not be achieved by monitoring everybody, but by focusing all powers on potential attackers. Instead of watching the forest - bulk metadata collection - Secret Services and the police should focus on the trees: individuals already known to the officials who pose a possible threat.

Encryption is not to blame

Politicians like to blame encryption and privacy-friendly tech companies to enable the terrorists to hide from being monitored. However, Glenn Greenwald described in detail how privacy-friendly tech companies are only convenient scapegoats when officials fail in preventing attacks.

The debate about banning encryption completely ignores the fact that most Secret Services have the possibility to track the phones of terrorist suspects; they can even hack phones and computers of potential attackers. Such a targeted attack might be more complicated, but it is very likely much more efficient than monitoring the entire communication of all innocent citizens.

Let us fight for our freedom

Strong end-to-end encryption is vital for keeping up the privacy of normal citizens and also for keeping up our fundamental values such as freedom and privacy that we as democratic societies stand for. The Electronis Frontier Foundation already warned that "any ‘backdoor’ into our communications will inevitably (and perhaps primarily) be used for illegal and repressive purposes rather than lawful ones”.

As much as we are all appalled by the shocking events in Paris, politicians should not use them to give up everybody’s freedom by creating an obtrusive surveillance state. If we follow down this path, the terrorists have already won.

Let's encrypt our communication instead to make mass surveillance of innocent citizens impossible.

Free your data from mass spying!

and get your encrypted mailbox for free now.

Arne is co-founder and developer of Tutanota. I fight for privacy because that’s the cornerstone of freedom and democracy.

Posted on: 2015-11-19