See also: Encryption | Security | Surveillance



PrivacyInternationalDefinition of Privacy

A concept and related civil rights whereby only permission grants access to personal information. Privacy is a social value but the words ‘permission’, ‘grant’, ‘access’, ‘personal’ and ‘information’ are often subject to personal interpretation, making this a very difficult concept to describe effectively.

Privacy is about being left alone, although some people don’t care about privacy because they feel they have nothing to hide. Yet these same people would probably not wear clothes with their medical history written up on them for everyone to see. With a lack of privacy comes less autonomy and more self-moderation. Privacy is similar to anonymity and obscurity and can be a dangerous topic.

What appears to retain an adequate amount of privacy, could in fact, just be hiding those with prying minds. For example, in some gardens plants may appear to be a solid buffer, while in reality, there maybe places where someone hidden can look through and observe unnoticed. This concept is related to the Panopticon.


Absolute privacy be considered being alone in a remote location or the inability for other forces to gain any identity related information about you. Total surveillance, as the opposite of absolute privacy, would involve being under careful watch at all times, being in the company of others at all times, or detailed information about your past and identity being available to virtually anyone. While we exist in the middle, individuals want to be on one side and law enforcement wants us to be on the other.

Overt Violations

Often, you know when your trust has been breeched by another party. Spam in the form of email, mailed fliers, credit card applications and such are commonly thought to be propagated by the permissionless distribution of one’s private information. This information may be posted voluntarily, discovered by a Cracker, or by poor privacy policies that allow your information to be dispursed without your knowledge or consent.

Covert Violations

Meanwhile, governments who keep track of their citizens rarely inform them how much information is known about them. This is assumed to be quite high as new appointees in secret organizations often find that their background is thoroughly checked, interfacing with old aquaintances, even from childhood.

Intelligence agencies are able to access library borrowings, medical records, accomodation bookings, internet, cable and TiVo viewing habits, credit card transactions, and credit records amongst a myriad of other sources.

US citizens can request information kept about them by the FBI as part of the Freedom of Information Act. The information, however, is limited to what was collected as of (approx) 7 years ago and may have been rendered invalid by the Patriot Act.

Video surveillance is still an onging privacy issues.

Related Software and Websites

  • Corkscrew – Allows you to transport real time ssh sessions via an HTTPS proxy server, often needed to circumvent restrictive corporate networks.
  • Rubberhose – Encrypts disk data in a way that allows you to deny the existence of a selected minority of files by hiding them within other data.
  • Privacy Power – General privacy news, but also lots of information on spyware (and alternatives).


  • Stop the PDEA Act “The U.S. Senate recently passed the PIRATE Act Act, which is similar to the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act (PDEA, HR 4077). Since there is no official House version of PIRATE, all eyes are now on PDEA. If you haven’t already done so, please consider asking your friends, family, and co-workers to tell their reps to oppose this bill.” – EFF
  • Stop the USA PATRIOT Act – broadly-worded, significant attack on a two hundred years of progress on Civil Liberties and Privacy.

Related Topics


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