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Trump Is the New President. But No Matter Who Rules, You Should Always Protect Your Privacy.

2017-01-20
Eight years ago many people hoped in vain that Obama would reduce NSA surveillance. Now many fear that US surveillance will become even worse under Trump's rule. But faith and fear are wrong guides when it comes to protecting your privacy: Precaution is what we all need.

Yes, Trump is taking office today. But, as Snowden pointed out, this is not a particular reason why you should worry about your privacy. Prior to being elected in 2008, Obama promised to shut down the warrantless wiretapping programs that were going on at the time. He never did.

Now a new president comes into office, and many are worried that surveillance will get even worse. But even if it does - does that make a difference? The technology to monitor the entire Internet traffic is already there, and state authorities as well as companies are using it against us. Today we are living in a surveillance state worse than it had once been imagined by George Orwell. Will a new President really make a difference? Snowden rightly said: "If we want a better world, we can't hope for an Obama, or fear a Trump. We should build it ourselves."

Take back your data with encryption

What he means by that is easy: You should think about your own security and privacy rather than relying on a politician to make changes. Snowden said that Americans need to think about how to "defend the rights of everyone, everywhere," rather than defending against Trump in high office. And this is true for all people around the world.

Because state surveillance is not only a threat in the US, but sadly all around the world. Surveillance has grown in almost every country these past few years, and the open and widely unencrypted use of the Internet has made it very easy for the authorities to watch our every step. Now, more than ever, is the time to change that!

"I have nothing to hide" is a false statement - for everybody.

Fortunately there are more and more services allowing you to encrypt your communication end-to-end so that you can protect yourself and your family and friends. Of course there are always the people who say "I have nothing to hide". This might be true - for the moment, at least - but the scope of such a statement has a much wider impact.

If you have nothing to hide, you also have to accept that freedom of speech and a free press are impossible to maintain wherever there is no possibility to gather information or to meet sources in secret. Privacy is our basic human right because it is necessary to protect our freedom.

If you live in a surveillance state, it does not matter who controls it. The ruler or the ruling class might benefit from limiting free speech of its citizens. And the possible consequences should not be underestimated. Authorities are putting pressure on journalists in many countries, and Trump has been showing such a tendency as well. The question is: Does this reconcile with democratic values?

The NSA knows it all

Taken into account that the NSA by monitoring the Internet knows where you are, who you talk to, what you buy, and what you post or like online, it is worrying that they operate in complete secrecy.

No one can feel secure anymore because it is just impossible to predict who future targets might be: immigrants, Muslims, liberals, journalists?

When they came for the journalists, I did not speak out

That a new president is taking office today just makes clear what should have been obvious all along: When a state authority has the power - by laws and by technology - to monitor their own citizens, it is a threat to everybody's freedom. At the moment all we have left is self-defence with encryption.

Loss of privacy can have dire consequences

Even if you take the NSA out of the equation, giving up your privacy can have dire consequences for lots of people in their daily lives. Imagine you want to get a job within a public authority. What if you fought for the rights of minorities in the past? Could this be a reason why you don’t get the job?

Imagine you need money to buy a house or to pay your medication. Unfortunately you are friends on Facebook with people who don’t seem very trustworthy to creditors, maybe because they have debts. Sorry, no credit for you.

There is only one way to avoid these problems: encrypt your data.

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