Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The right to defend your rights...

Since 2010 opened its doors there has been an interesting debate going on here in Sweden about the ethics of breaking the law.  It all started, as things often do, with an idea...

In this case it was Peter Sunde, of Pirate Bay fame, who mooted an idea to circumvent Swedens FRA surveillance legislation by getting operators to bundle cross border traffic in encrypted tunnels...  Meaning in simple terms that operators can comply with the law by handing over all cross border traffic - but that they at the same time make life very hard for anyone trying to eavesdrop.

Journalist Andreas Ekström took umbrage and criticised Peter's position because it's undemocratic for people to choose which laws they (agree with) and want to follow.  ...which in this case means it's undemocratic to want to find a way to not have your mail, telephone calls and SMSs intercepted and snooped on.  Our democratically elected representatives have decided that's how it's going to be...  and so our is but to dutifully follow. 

There has, perhaps unsurprisigly, been much written on rights and wrongs of finding 'work arounds' to the law.  Although perhaps I'm a little surprised.  As far as I can tell Peter's idea is entirely legal - even if it would severely handicap th FRAs ability to keep tabs on things.  As any accountant can tell you there is a big difference between tax planning and tax avoidance.  If the law doesn't prohibit you doing something how can it be against some 'democratic principle' of compliance?  Though it's worth asking yourself the question of do you consider it your democratic duty to follow all laws even if they are against your own personal moral principles

(I'd just add at this point that laws don't actually forbid you from doing things - they define things you shouldn't do and the penalty you may suffer if caught........   then it all omes down to choice...)

However...  the one piece that caught my eye in the whole affair was an article by Rick Falkvinge on democracy and human rights (which for me at least was related to the same debate). In this case Rick explores why democracy and human rights are not the same thing - inspite of an oft shared view that democracy implicitly works to protect your rights. If a law is democratically introduced that infringes on your (or someone elses) rights - like your right to privacy.  What then.  Are you just going to quietly comply?

Politicians have a habit of drafting laws that are implicitly in violation of our rights - like surveillance by the FRA - and like the protection of Terrorism Act.  We implicitly can be expected to defend our rights...

And fortunately, with a little help, we can also see our rights vindicated as in this weeks judgement that:
".. the Court of Human Rights ruled that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the broad police power for stop and search without suspicion) violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights." (Liberty)

But wouldn't it be nice to have politicians that actually worked in your interests to protect and defend your rights in the first place?

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Putting privacy first.

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