Nietzsche and privacy

On: October 9, 2007
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About Laura van der Vlies
Laura van der Vlies is currently a New Media master student at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing the New Media bachelor program and finishing the propedeuse year CMD at the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, this is the year to finally really learn the inside of new media today. This summer I participated in the Digital Methods Initiative. This really made me learn to use knowledge in a different way. With interests in the topic of journalism on the web and certain forms of censorship I hope to make valuable contributions to this blog.


The Internet has brought up a lot of privacy issues over the years. For example personal information that leaks or identities that get stolen. But users can also change their own identity and pretent to be someone else. This tendency towards less privacy fits one of Friedrich Nietzsches quotes.

‘No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.’

Are we actually willing to pay a price for keeping our privacy? Or do we still have privacy?
An example about Radio Frequency Identification [RFID]. This refers to the technology that uses devices attached to objects that transmit data to an RFID receiver. An alternative to bar coding. Advantages include data capacity, read/write capability, and no line-of-sight requirements. This technique is used in the new Dutch passport. But already all the information that is in the passport can be hacked. The Basic Access Control-key, which is the key for ‘reading’ the pass, is made out of the birthdate, passnumber and expirationdate of the pass. So not that hard to crack. But it is even possible now for RFID chips to have a virus. More can be read about that on
But what can be done about this violation of privacy? For example IBM created the ‘Clipped Tag‘. This tag removes a portion of a RFID-tag’s antenna, which reduces a bit of the transmission capability. This means the RFID tag can only be read when it is just a few inches away from the reader. A second option is to wear clothes that block the signals. For example the RFID blocking wallet of passport case. A product demo can be found here.
So, people try to do things to prevent their data from being stolen and misused. But they don’t think about the fact that part of it is caused by themselves. Think about all the data people put on Facebook, Hyves or Myspace. This data is used by third parties that make money out of it. Watch this clip and consider what you put on your Hyves account again…

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