Berlin, 2011-12-30

Server Protection: A Legislation Initiative

This initiative makes it clear by explicit legislation, that the constitutional rights of the people to privacy has to effectively be applied also to pieces of hardware standing in a rack in some data centre:

German version: "Servermaschinen und virtuelle Server, welche private Kommunikationen zwischen Personen regeln und mitunter speichern, sollen rechtlich als befriedetes Besitztums aller Betroffenen betrachtet werden. Dies bedeutet, dass jeglicher Eingriff einem Hausfriedensbruch entspricht, dass der Zugriff einer Hausdurchsuchung entspricht und eine dauerhafte Penetration der Überwachung von Privaträumlichkeiten gleichgestellt wird."

Rough translation: Server machines and virtual servers, which store and forward communications between people, are to be regarded legally as 'pacified possession,' which in Germany is the legal terminology for an area where several people live and thus deserves protection by the constitution. This means, that any intrusion or disruption of such servers is equivalent to a search and seizure of the private homes of the people that reside on it. Also a permanent penetration of the server is to be considered legally equivalent to continous surveillance of private facilities.

This short paragraph takes the logical consequence out of the architecture that the Internet has come to adopt. The factual deployment of ADSL, IP4 and NAT technologies has created a likelihood that most parts of human activity on the Internet follows the client/server model with the server storing our private data in the Internet backbone, not in our private homes. It is therefore, after over a decade of legislative neglect, overdue to adapt our constitutional rights to personal safety, privacy and secrecy of correspondence to our digital reality.

This thinking can actually be implemented both in a legislative as in a jurisdictional way. A Supreme Court has all reasons to rule in a similar vein, deriving this from the constitution. It's best to aim for both modernized jurisdiction and legislation on this topic.

I have promoted this idea a bit within the German Piratenpartei, but it is currently so busy broadening its political programme for the upcoming parliamentary elections that such a specific Internet issue isn't the hottest item on the agenda.

On a side note, I am also the initiator of "Secure Share" which is a technological project to ensure our 'secrecy of correspondence,' so I happen to be fighting on both legislative and factual fronts in the battle for digital personal liberties.

If you like this idea, you might also like the more radical idea of sealed technology. And you may like the Social Swarm of course.

Feedback: At the activist meet-up at the 28C3, Erik Josefsson suggested that this initiative is based on similar thoughts as Prof. Moglen's FreedomBox. This is true, the Freedombox is a nice home server intiative with similar goals, but it IMHO doesn't tackle the issue as it doesn't shake the realities of ADSL, IP4 and NAT. Having a server at home is already feasible and it only works so far — the technical asymmetry makes home servers inacceptably slow. People will always opt for the lightning fast download times of backbone servers. With Secure Share we are targeting the Freedombox, too — not because we expect it to resolve the liberty issues but simply because for some people it may be more practical to run secushare on their router or Freedombox rather than on their laptop, smartphone or PC.


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