September 2, 2015

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Encryption as protest

As a computer scientist who studies Privacy-Enhancing Technologies, I remember my surprise when I first learned that some groups of people view and use them very differently than I’m used to. In computer science, PETs are used for protecting anonymity or confidentiality, often via application of cryptography, and are intended to be bullet-proof against an adversary who is trying to breach privacy.

By contrast, Helen Nissenbaum and others have developed a political and ethical theory of obfuscation [1], “a strategy for individuals, groups or communities to hide; to protect themselves; to protest or enact civil disobedience, especially in the context of monitoring, aggregated analysis, and profiling..”  CV Dazzle and Ad Nauseam are good examples.

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