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Most privacy and civil liberties campaigning is done wrong, and that's why we're losing.

2 min read

The problem with talking about such matters as government mass surveillance, the end of your right to a private life, rushed data retention laws etc, is that I've so far been forced to engage on a very cerebral level.

I'm forced to discuss things like the balance of risks, fishing expeditions, feature creep, chilling effects, the fact that historically people have more to fear from their own government than any external threat, etc. Peoples eyes tend to glaze over.

Now perhaps I'm particularly bad at talking to people about this stuff, but I notice that a lot of the professional campaigns seem to also be talking in this very dry, logical and abstract way too.

But, all the other side needs to do is say "terrorists will blow you up" or "pedophiles will get your kids", and make some totally unfounded assertions as to the risks, and they instantly win the argument. All this without providing a single shred of evidence as to the necessity or effectiveness of these laws and programs, or even the existence of any kind of threat.

They can do this because they don't make an argument from reason, they make an argument from emotion. This taps directly into our irrational hind brain, bypassing any reason or understanding of the real level of risk.

We, as privacy campaigners need to start framing or objections to connect with people on an emotional level. To really internalise the threat these programs and laws represent to them and their children.

Of course, I'm having a hard time working out how...