Mass surveillance is no secret. What seemed like a far-fetched plot line for a James Bond movie a few decades ago is now a reality in most of the world. But the trouble is that most of the world is also democratic. So, how much mass surveillance can democracy withstand?
That question comes at a time when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has just announced he’ll be appointing a vocal advocate of mass surveillance as the new head of the CIA. Meanwhile, British lawmakers have managed to quietly sneak past parliament a bill that would enable authorities to use the most extreme surveillance tools on the planet.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a watchdog for intelligence agencies in the UK, found that spy agencies had illegally gathered data on citizens between 1998 and 2015. Instead of dealing with this issue, the new Investigative Powers Act effectively legalises this sort of data gathering. Spy agencies like GCHQ can now carry on “legally” with the mass surveillance they’ve been operating for the past 17 years.
A Threat To Democracy
This trend is deeply worrying for businesses and people in developed and democratic countries. A Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll found that mass surveillance had the potential to deeply undermine democracy as the relationship between people and government was altered.
The current state of mass surveillance originates from a vicious cycle of fear and insecurity. After every terrorist attack the authorities promise better security through the means of surveillance. A frightened public willingly accepts the need for such systems without questioning the technical details or the safeguard against abuse. Once built, the surveillance system remains permanent but governments change. Left-leaning political parties built up extensive surveillance powers that could now fall into the hands of right-wing parties in Europe and the Trump administration in America.
All the tools to suppress minorities, free speech, and dissent are already in place with very little oversight. To make matters worse, there’s also evidence to suggest that these surveillance systems are completely ineffective and do not help prevent any attacks.
There are absolutely no checks and balances to this powerful tool. Governments could use the metadata collected over decades to target groups of certain ethnicities, sexual orientations, and political ideologies. Business secrets would be nearly impossible to safeguard.
There’s no telling how governments will use this data with more volatile and extreme policies. Business owners and individuals may need to consider ways to protect their data and privacy online.
Thankfully, certain jurisdictions offer a safe haven for private business data. Switzerland, for example, has a long history of privacy protection and is a rare advocate of the human right to privacy. Due to the country’s long-held banking secrecy tradition, data is as well protected as money if held on Swiss data centers. That’s why, data centers and server farms located in Switzerland are protected by watertight security regulations.
Switzerland is quickly becoming a safe haven for corporate and private data. As mass surveillance spreads from New York to New Zealand, entrepreneurs looking for ways to keep businessdata away from prying eyes and unpredictable politics may seek out services based in Switzerland.
What we do, is go one step further and encrypt all the information handled on our platform. Since all the data is encrypted even we have no access to contacts, emails, and attachments shared on the system. Therefore, these systems have multiple layers of protection that guarantee access only to the rightful owners of the information. Every byte of data is encrypted and stored in Switzerland, where it can only be accessed after a 2-factor authentication process.
So, in a world where a paranoid demagogue controls the most powerful spy agency and developed countries undermine their democracy with ultra-powerful snooping tools, privacy and data protection are likely to become valuable commodities.