I met Bruce Schneier (way cool)

Being an unabashed Schneier fanboy, I think I’ll just come right out and say it: yesterday was cool.

It was a talk and Q&A with Bruce Schneier, organised by the Open Rights Group and attended by over 100 fellow geeky people. Bruce spoke about the future of privacy, from the current prevalence of data in all forms to the future ubiquity of devices and technologies that could severely reduce the privacy of the individual.

I was familiar with a lot of the things that Bruce was talking about, so there were no major technological surprises or revelatory principles in the talk — but I was struck by how optimistic he was. He said that, though these technologies have serious potential to cause harm, he was confident that lawmakers would get things right within a generation or two.

Central to the talk was the idea that privacy vs security is a false dichotomy, that the real struggle is liberty vs control, and that that’s a problem only good lawmaking will solve.

Among the highlights:

“Data is the industrial pollution of the information age”

“The real dichotomy is liberty vs control, not security vs privacy. Real security is liberty plus privacy”

“I see this era as heralding the death of the ephemeral conversation”

And on the idea that security inevitably erodes privacy — and that the underlying assumption that all security is information security:

“I don’t want to know who the guy sat behind me is, I want to know if he’s going to blow up the plane — if so, I still don’t care who he is”

Which, assuming you’re the airline operator, is very much the case.