Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

A Senior Homeland Security Official Says Internet Anonymity Should Be Outlawed

Erik Barnett, an assistant deputy director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and attache to the European Union at the Department of Homeland Security, recently wrote an article entitled Whose Privacy Are We Protecting? Balancing Rights to Anonymity with Rights to Public Safety, published in FIC Observatory, a French publication dedicated to debates about cybersecurity. Barnett believes that privacy should not exist online.

Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the idea “plainly unconstitutional.”

Barnett uses a recent example of a man the United States and a man in Romania who exchanged child pornography photos of the Romanian’s 22-month-old daughter. While that act is considered reprehensible by most people, Erik Barnett wants to treat everyone like presumed child pornographers. He wants to monitor the transactions and communications of everyone just in case one of them turns out to be a pornographer or a jihadist in order to “to protect citizenry from terrorist attack” and other evils. Barnett’s article makes no mention of protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding individuals. His proposal obviously is an example of “presumed guilty until proven innocent.”

Erik Barnett ends his brief article by writing, “Do the rules which apply to the physical world, both for citizenry and police, apply in the digital one?”

I would suggest that yes, protections of individual’s privacy, liberty, and all other rights have not changed since the US Constitution was written in in 1787. Law enforcement agencies used to find and arrest lawbreakers long before the invention of the Internet. Let’s not ignore those 200+ year-old Constitutional rights in the 21st century.

You can read Erik Barnett’s questionable article at

Categories: Legal Affairs, Online Privacy & Security

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