Wherever data is collected about people, eventually, covetousness arises. Often, the aim is to make money out of the data. But databases can also be used in ways that pose a serious threat to life and limb.
Things that seem completely harmless today, physical characteristics, preferences or behaviors, can put the person behind the database entry in danger tomorrow. Supported a certain political party, or participated in an LGBTQI demo? Well, your location data reveals that to the new authoritarian regime. Sounds utopian? We've seen this already happen during the Nazi regime, as this book about the use of punch cards to persecute minorities describes.
Danger arises when the political system changes, when a democracy becomes a dictatorship, when information gets into the hands of the enemy, when one country attacks another.
Presently, we are experiencing such a situation.
And we will experience others.
On the political side, far too little is still being done to protect people's privacy. Yes, the GDPR is a great regulation, and it serves as a model for data protection laws around the world. But personal data is still being transferred to countries that cannot provide an adequate level of protection. At the same time, laws are being put in place that want to enable mass surveillance, lower existing levels of protection, and make secure communications impossible.
Epicenter Works, NGO fighting for Digital Civil Rights, says: (...) we have to remember that fundamental decisions are being made today which will affect us for decades to come. Once certain technologies are accepted and in the field, the problem is there and cannot easily be rolled back.
Many, many companies, organizations and individuals are helping to fill the databases by willingly creating the technical conditions to monitor people. By operating insecure networks, by seeing data protection as a chore. Yet, informational self-determination is a human right.
We would like to remind you that it is always bad to categorize people, to observe them, to spy on them. In a situation where a cyberwar is raging alongside a terrible bomb war, more people may listen to us and take this appeal seriously.
In war, everything becomes a weapon. Data are powerful weapons. Don't create weapons.