I think that's a false dichotomy

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Sun Sep 4 03:05:28 CEST 2016

> Do you think that privacy is a fundamental human right?

What does it mean for something to be a "fundamental" human right?  If
the question is meaningful, then there must be human rights that are
*not* fundamental.  So, what's a fundamental human right, and how is it
different from a normal human right?

Of course I believe privacy is a human right -- but I have no idea what
a "fundamental" human right is.

> Also, it seems to me a bit that the discussion following up your post
> partly confounds two rather different cases...

That was not a discussion I participated in, and not one I'm interested
in commenting on.

> Human rights are, in essence, unconditional.

All rights exist in a constant balancing act with the equal rights of
others.  The question of, "so where do we strike the balance, and why?"
is one of the central animating questions of democracy.  There is
nothing unconditional in that balancing act.  It's highly conditional.

> But the mere *possibility* that some people commit crimes does not 
> form a valid reason to strip all other human beings of their rights.


I own a rifle.  With that rifle, I can deprive you of your right to
live.  But so long as I keep the rifle in the closet and use it
according to law, you haven't been deprived of anything.  Likewise,
you're conflating the possibility of the authorities having ways to
subvert the privacy of innocent people with them actually doing so.

Now, of course I don't want the civil authorities to have
legislatively-mandated back doors into every system.  I don't think
that's an appropriate solution.  But I do believe the civil authorities
need appropriate mechanisms to pursue their lawful ends (and effective
oversight systems to ensure they're being used lawfully).

> First, if somebody is actually committing a crime such as child abuse
> or murder, in this digital age he will not leave only traces but a
> formidable broad dirt track of his activities.

I'm transitioning out of my job, where for the last eight years I've
been doing research and development into digital forensics, mostly for
government customers.  After eight years I reached the point where I
began to think that every adult male should just have his clothes
surgically attached, and at that point it's time to move on to the next

I wish you were right.  I really, honestly, truly do.  But you're not.
Quite often, we're stuck literally *watching kids get exploited* and
there's nothing we can do about it except wait for the exploiter to make
a mistake.

The amateurs are easy to catch.  But there are some genuinely crafty
people in this world, and they practice astonishingly good operational

> It is actually near impossible to hide most activities completely. 
> For example, it is rather difficult to delete digital media 
> completely from any normal computer. For a targeted forensic 
> investigation, almost always there will be enough traces.

"Crack the hard drive in a clean room and go over it with an atomic
force microscope" is the kind of glib nonsense that gets bandied about
by people who have never struggled to get into a bunny suit (they never
have one in my size) or freaked out upon seeing the chemicals that get
used in the process (when you notice you're in the same room as a tank
of chlorine trifluoride, you begin thinking about a new career).

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