Privacy is not only in the interests of the individual, but it is also essential for society as a whole: there is no democracy without privacy. Think of certain groups and their ability to meet safely, such as the LHBTIQ+ movement, or the former black civil rights movement: the people in these groups should be able to talk to one other without being in the direct line of fire. In some countries, this still involves risks, and in such cases, privacy may literally be a matter of life and death.
“That’s why it’s important to think about new solutions, because we’ve simply become too accustomed to the current ones. This is what I call technological determinism: the idea that the Internet just evolved in this way, which means that it should always work like this. But the Internet is something that we’ve developed together as a society, and it could also evolve in the opposite direction.”
That’s why I’m so proud of the research that we’re carrying out at iHub at Radboud University. A perfect example of this is IRMA, which began here but is now being developed independently. It’s an alternative login system that allows you to determine the attributes that you share with an organisation as well as the moment at which you wish to share them. IRMA allows you to store your attributes safely on your own phone, and you only need to provide organisations with relevant information when it’s really necessary. For example, if you need to log in to a system to prove that you’re over 16, you don’t need to share all of your date of birth details via IRMA; you only need to provide the separate ‘attribute’ that shows that you meet that particular age requirement.