Privacy laws needed to curb surveillance, says Schneier

Future generations will judge us on how we addressed fundamental issues of privacy.

Future generations will judge us on how we addressed fundamental issues of privacy, according to Bruce Schneier, security technologist and CTO of BT Counterpane.

One of the biggest problems is data pollution. Nearly everything we do creates a computer record, Bruce Schneier told attendees of the RSA Conference Europe 2008 in London.

"We, who are involved in IT and security and building all these systems [that collect data] need to pay more attention to the issue of privacy," Schneier said.

At present, surveillance cameras are ubiquitous, but we can still see them. ID checks are everywhere, but we still know they are going on.

According to Schneier, now is the time to take action before technology enables all evidence of data collection to disappear and it becomes the norm without sufficient controls in place.

"The answer would be a comprehensive set of privacy laws," he said.

The death of privacy is a natural result of technological advancement, he said, but it is up to the current generation to ensure that it does not become inevitable.

"What we build today will be around for decades, so what we set as the default will make a huge difference in years to come," he said.

Technology is changing the balance between control and liberty, said Schneier. "The challenge is maintaining that balance by ensuring [what we build today] is more conducive to liberty."

We will be judged by future generations on how well we respond to that challenge, he said.

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