Friday, November 14, 2008

One giant airport security area

Security after September 11 seems to be modelled on the court of the Red Queen. Absurd rules, and no sense of humor. Bruce Schneier is one of the sane voices, and Schneier on Security collects his essays on terrorism, privacy and identity theft. It is the book to read on your next plane trip.

Schneier says the choice between security and privacy is false: Some anti-terror measures give you both, others neither. Most security is just security theater, intended to make you feel safe, and to help officials cover their own asses. They're not defending us against the next terrorist attack, but themselves against the next post-attack investigation.

Security is always a trade-off. There's a cost in money, time, or civil rights, and perfect security is never worth it, (otherwise you'd never leave your house for fear of a car accident). Massive surveillance of streets and internet traffic may make us slightly safer, but not much, and at great cost to personal freedom. All state power is abused, and if we give our state the power of East Germany, it will behave like East Germany.

Schneier on Security is so sensible that it hardly seems an achievement. But on this side of the looking glass, sanity is radical. Fear and blame and stupidity works against us with a devilish logic. Schneier's message to people who are worried about their online privacy may thus be extended to all security issues: You're screwed.



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