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Privacy Story

The EFF is “collecting stories from people about the moment digital privacy first started mattering in their lives”. They also ask to share the stories on Twitter using the hashtag #privacystory. Here is my story, even if I’m not on Twitter. Feel free to share anyways, as usual under CC BY-SA 4.0.

I insist that my wife and I have got a right to privacy for our communication. Not only do I defend that right when we are in the same room, but also when we communicate over the Internet. Actually, I even dare to suggest that all people have got that right. (This point of view probably sounds radical to some; once upon a time such thoughts were worthy enough to be embedded into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—see Article 12 there.)

For a long time I took that right for granted and believed that we in Germany and Europe did not need to fight for it. That belief was shattered in 2006 when the European parliament passed the Data Retention Directive: Throughout Europe, so-called metadata about the electronic communication (e-mails, phone calls, texts) of every law-abiding citizen was to be stored for 6 months, without any probable cause.

In response, I became interested in cryptography and anonymity networks to defend my human rights against unconstitutional violations. I have been using and advertising tools for digital self-defense since then. At the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine you can still access an early version (August 2006) of my German website to spread knowledge about such tools.

Briefly, I recommend that you (1) educate yourself about and then (2) use free (not necessarily gratis) software to protect your online privacy, namely the Tor Browser for Web surfing, GnuPG to encrypt your e-mail, and messengers based on XMPP such as Conversations (or alternatively Signal).

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