Hasan Elahi: FBI, here I am! | Video on TED.com

Hasan Elahi: FBI, here I am! | Video on TED.com.

Hasan faces the Police State with the weapon they fear most: humour and ridicule.

OK, the two weapons they fear most. Humour, ridicule and a viable internet platform. The THREE weapons…


he makes what may sound to some like a good case for a clever strategy but is , in my view, is a council of despair. First and foremost, I think he naively believes that you can drown them in data.

That’s actually probably true. Today.

i.e. if we ALL adopted Hasan’s public lifelogging practices, today, the authorities would have considerable difficulty sorting the wheat from the chaff. By tomorrow, however, it’ll be trivial.

But there are ways you could keep it difficult. Chaff, as it happens, is quite an important concept in this context.  In short, if for every “real” transaction you log, you have your system randomly creating between 5 and 50 fictional (but plausible and consistent) ones, and if we’re ALL doing that, then even though ALL  the real data is out there, any attacker would have a very hard time tracking you through the maze.

Yet, any time a transaction needed verifying, it would be childsplay to send the verifier the url of the long published details, together with the all important link to the registered hash with its trusted timestamp on an immutable public audit trail.

And if you were careful with what you publish, you could restrict the potential security or privacy risks. For example, while we may now know that Hasan took a dump at 2.59 pm on May 25 (that’s an example – not a quote)  what he sensibly showed us was a photo of the toilet; not a picture of himself on it (or, worse, the product of his visit)

Similarly, you might choose to publish the fact you’ve just bought an airline ticket to Hong Kong. But you’d be daft to reveal when you’re flying or returning. And it may or may not be wise to let the world know when you are actually in Hong Kong, at least not if your home address is as public as the rest of the data and you’ve already told them you live alone. And that you’ve got some rather desirable HiFi and expensive electronic kit; or jewellry; or much loved pets being left to their own devices; or whatever…

Of course, if the potential burglar is ALSO logging his movements…

yes, it is somewhat unlikely isn’t it?

Essentially, he’s half way to the probable solution. We MUST indeed record ourselves for various reasons but including the major reason Hasan is taking his stand: to be able to prove the negative when confronted by agents of the Police State.

If you stand accused of being involved in the next 9-11, you’ll need bullet proof evidence of where you were and what you were doing in order to be able to prove beyond mathematical doubt where you could not have been. Especially if you are a follower of Islam or look like you might be. Or fit whatever the then  “terrorist profile” happens to be.

That’s the most serious reason for recording ourselves –  as a protection against the authoritarian abuse which may appear to be becoming commonplace. (Not so, it’s just becoming more visible)

The other purposes are generally much friendlier so I’ll write about those when I’m feeling friendlier.

In any case, though we MUST record ourselves, it is a) possible  b) necessary and c) desirable that we do so in near complete secrecy, where access to the individual history and proof of that history is controlled entirely by that individual.

But the mere fact that we know that history exists and can – if we choose to do so – be validated to any reasonable forensic standard – means that despite our improved privacy, increased anonymity and secrecy, we would all be provably ACCOUNTABLE.

And that’s the secret of how Trusted Surveillance will resolve the dispute between liberty and security.


About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

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