"Everyone seems depressed," someone said a half-day into this year's Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference. It's true. Databases are everywhere this year. FEMA databases made of records from physicians, pharmacists, insurers. The databases we used to call the electoral rolls. Choicepoint. The National Health infrastructure they want to build. Real ID. RFID tracks and trails – coming soon to a database near you. And so on.This is an assessment from a privacy advocate that makes me happy I didn't attend this year. The comment about everyone being depressed this year is inevitable as I witnessed at previous CFP conferences I did attend, for everyone to go from angry to depressed means they are giving up or resigning themselves to Big Brother attacks on our civil liberties. I've been angry enough to talk about privacy issues for years - the difficulty is in getting anyone to care enough to talk about it, subscribe to discussion lists or to contact their elected representatives to object.
The abuses of the Patriot Act are eroding our privacy protections. The pendulum appears to be starting its return swing toward sanity now, but a depressed opposition to privacy incursions will not stir up the voters. What will is anyone's guess.
I was sure that the ridiculous Total Information Awareness program, headed by John Poindexter of Iran-Contra fame, would wake up the sleepy populace. It didn't. I was certain that the ChoicePoint absurdity would stir up those concerned about loss of privacy. It didn't. I thought that the recent AT&T spying case would rile up the populace. It doesn't appear to be much of a concern to most.
If the CFP attendees are depressed and not angry, it could be that they are depressed because nobody else seems to care about privacy issues and that is depressing. Privacy advocates who attend CFP all understand the dangers of losing privacy protections, but can't seem to get anyone else to pay attention. As long as EFF and EPIC continue to fight privacy erosion, I'll stay happy enough to keep talking about the importance of protecting our privacy.
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