by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
germany, privacy, public space

Top German Police Officer: 'Anyone On The Internet Has Left The Private Sphere'

from the you-first dept

The Internet as a mass medium is still relatively young, so it's no surprise that its function in society and in our daily lives is still being defined. One important question concerns the nature of our actions online: to what extent are they public? Here's one rather extreme view, expressed by Jürgen Maurer, vice-president of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, as reported by Der Spiegel (original in German):

Anyone on the Internet has left the private sphere, and finds themselves in a kind of public sphere.
That's no mere detail, of course: actions that are perfectly acceptable in the private sphere may not be in public, and vice versa, so it's crucially important to know where you are at a given time. For example, there are many things you might get up to in the privacy of your own home that would not be allowed in public. Similarly, it's generally regarded as OK for the police to keep an eye on what happens in public places, but their interest in people's bedrooms most certainly wouldn't be.

Since Maurer seems to believe that anything you do online, however personal and intimate, takes place in "a kind of public sphere," perhaps he'd like to follow that through, and start posting all his Internet activity online for the public to enjoy. Or maybe his idea of the public sphere online really just means "a place where the police don't need to get a warrant to spy on people...."

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  1. identicon
    Mr. Applegate, 27 Feb 2013 @ 5:26am

    I have to say, there is a point there. The internet is much like the local mall. It isn't a private place. Most people may see you come and go, and even see what you are looking at or buying. For the most part you are unaware and no one cares.

    If you post something on the internet it is no different than putting it on a poster at the local mall. Maybe you sign it, maybe not, but someone could see you or even film you doing it.

    The exception (at least as I see it) is sites that are encrypted and require login to post AND view content. Then you are in a place such as a private club. Still not your bedroom, but there is an expectation that only fellow members will see what you post or do.

    Finally, if you are on a site that is secured and requires members to login AND allows you to choose who may see your content, now you have approached the level of your bedroom and the same level of protections should apply. Still you need to remember that unlike your bedroom, there is a recording of everything you do, that may be there forever. So with the proper warrants... the evidence of your actions could still be used against you. Much like that nasty video you keep stashed under your bed.

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