Right here exactly five years ago Frank Rieger and myself held a lecture that was called “We lost the war”. It was about how we felt the fight over privacy and wider civil rights was going. For those of you who weren’t there: it wasn’t a very happy story. It was at the height of the post 9/11 paranoia. It was a done deal that the whole EU was going to have data retention and Frank and I set out to explore the future a little bit. I guess the pessimism in our talk was partly inspired by the awe we felt over this perfect storm. What we saw felt like a desperate last stand in a world which was facing economic non-sustainability, climate change, major power shifts and the end of cheap oil and many other natural resources. All of this was happening in the next few decades. Each independently, these are factors capable of causing serious mayhem.
A lot of what we predicted for the short term did in fact play out. It is clear to many more people today than in 2005 that the world is headed for turbulent times and that this perfect storm is still very much out there. But obviously the fight over privacy is still ongoing, so in that sense we were wrong: we did not lose the war, at least not completely and not everywhere.
Denn bisher bremsen die Richter in Karlsruhe die diversen Irrfahrten glücklicherweise noch, wie die zu weiten Rahmen der Nummernschilderkennung, der Online-Durchsuchung oder der Vorratsdatenspeicherung.
In Germany this became apparent when the Constitutional Court started defending privacy and civil liberties in earnest. Many of you already know this: they first told the government that cops cannot go randomly OCRing license plates from traffic whizzing by on the road just because they felt like it. Then they ruled that spying on people’s computers is like spying in their bedrooms, so it should meet the same stringent criteria. And to cap it off they killed the German data retention legislation, at least for now.
(…) If you compare Germany to a bus, then it’s like these judges leapt from their seats, pushed aside the driver and pulled the handbrake just before the bus tumbled into the ravine. For them and for all of us, I really hope the judges on the court live long enough for the rest of Germany to see it that way. At this point the bus driver is just trying to get these judges to release the damn brake so the bus can move on.
Es folgte eine unterhaltsame Beschreibung von Robs Aktivitäten und den großen (Hacker-)Themenfelder der letzten Jahre, die er mit einem schönen Zitat Margaret Meads abschloss:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.