Monday, September 1, 2008

"... the police were authorized to look for ... maps of St. Paul ..."

Go Team... Something...

And the full quote that I took apart for the title:

A copy of a warrant at one house said the police were authorized to look for a laundry list of items, including fire bombs, Molotov cocktails, brake fluid, photographs and maps of St. Paul, paint, computers and camera equipment, and documents and other communications.

Photographs and maps of St. Paul.

People say we're living in something called the "Information Age". That doesn't mean that technology, liberty, and free flow of information change anything about our physical relationship with the world (the blogger linked was surprised to hear this; amusing), but it does mean that people have and can get information much more easily than ever before. Also misinformation and non-information, but I don't think those things are as important. It means that having maps and photos is pretty irrelevant. Public information about where stuff is and what it looks like is public with the force of two of our scariest big companies. Private information about whatever crazy shit you're planning can be hidden, at least for a while (it's harder and not as well funded as making information public). Ultimately raiding people's houses like this will be not only an abuse of police power but completely pointless. The reaction from governments has largely been to turn up the heat; as searches become harder to perform remove restrictions and expand police power. Try to outlaw encryption or force people to give up their passphrases (as I understand it there's a question whether computer files can be treated like physical property that can be seized or whether giving up your keys is testifying against yourself, which can't be forced). Ultimately trying to find the information will be futile anyway.

So quit the bullshit and do security right. Not that the geek Cult of Schneier is totally rational, but he cares about results over theatre (yeah, the feeling of security is important, too, but people can be educated about the realities, and they increasingly can get the information necessary to see through the illusions), and cares about living in a free society.

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