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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Privacy's Radical Fringe

We stand at a dangerous point in the evolution of privacy. As more and more people realize the importance of privacy, we see less and less government leadership on the issue. It is fine for the wealthy to purchase their own privacy. But if government does not follow through, and if people are not able to afford the privacy they feel they need, then some ultimately will take matters into their own hands.

Around the world, we are seeing the emergence of radical privacy activists. These people are disregarding laws and societal norms in order to raise the world's privacy consciousness. Their attacks are designed to publicize the lack of privacy or the ridiculousness of antiprivacy government policies. They are trying to shout, "The emperor has no clothes!" Consider these developments:

  • In the fall of 1992, a loosely knit group called the "Cypherpunks" formed in northern California.[9] The Cypherpunks dedicated themselves to the distribution of high-strength cryptographic software and to public attacks on software that allegedly provided privacy but did not use strong encryption. In the years since then, numerous criminal actions have been attributed to the Cypherpunks, including the illegal export of cryptographic software from the United States and the public disclosure of previously secret encryption algorithms. The Cypherpunks mailing list has also been used to transmit information about security flaws in commercial software, even though leaking this information ...

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