Riot

This evening at a barnstormingly good Reading Geek Night I was chatting with a somewhat older "ICT" chap and told him that I do security. We spoke of privacy, we spoke of secrecy, and the subsequent conversation went somewhat like this: Him:...

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This evening at a barnstormingly good Reading Geek Night I was chatting with a somewhat older "ICT" chap and told him that I do security.

We spoke of privacy, we spoke of secrecy, and the subsequent conversation went somewhat like this:

Him: "So what do you think of this idea of switching off Blackberry services so that the rioters can't communicate?"

Me: "I think it's a dreadful idea."

Him: (shocked) "So you'd support allowing people to use Twitter and Blackberrys to organise riots?"

Perhaps it's because I just got back from DEF CON and some osmotic influence from the people I hung out with there; or perhaps it was his implied fallacy and his Daily-Mail-esque shock - but my response was:

Me: "Yes, yes I do. I support that some people might want to use Blackberries to organise riots. If people want to use a cellphone or social media to conspire, that's fine by me. I also believe that young lovers should be able to whisper sweet nothings to each other in secret, I believe that rape victims should be able to communicate in private, and that pregnant girls should be able to seek abortion advice without state, corporate, or parental eavesdropping. Cancer sufferers should be able to share in private their illness with the people who care for them, and I believe that dissidents should be free to communicate political opinion.

I believe all of these things because I discriminate the ability to obtain privacy from the exercise of criminal intent, and I believe that the ability to have a private conversation - something that 200 years ago was easily guaranteed - is a valuable asset to the individual. Plus I further believe that a state which has been too lazy, too profligate, or too cheap to police what people are doing rather than how they talk about doing it, is in no position to argue that ability or secrecy of communication should be inhibited because the problem is too expensive for them to address otherwise."

The conversation rapidly moved to "whether rioters have a different moral framework?" - I cited Cicero and the dubious Socrates meme, and we agreed instead to blame it on the parents.

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