Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

How can inflation protect human rights?

Published on 04 February 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024

Hasan Elahi, an American academic, was stopped in September 2001 by an FBI agent who asked what he was doing on 12 September 2001. He was suspected of planning another terrorist attack or of some similar conspiracy. Somehow he qualified for the list of suspects. The accusation was both real and absurd. The only way to respond was to play the FBI’s game and, in a sense, to ridicule the system. Instead of being interrogated whenever suited the FBI, he decided to provide ALL data abut himself on the Internet. He linked his mobile to GPS so it was possible to trace his travel. He posted details of all his financial transactions, his telephone calls, his private life, photos, etc. He literally posted it all, with just one limitation: to protect the privacy of other people. Ultimately, the FBI started complaining that he provided too much data. Besides ridiculing the whole system of surveillance, Hasan also discovered that the more data he provided about himself, the more privacy he gained.

In a way, Hasan introduced a ‘denial of service attack’. He bombarded the FBI’s system with data it could not process, thus making the principle of inflation even more important. Like money, inflated objects lose value. The more ‘secret’ they are, the less secret and less valuable they become. This principle of ‘inflation’ is being used more and more in modern society, even in public discourse. In Serbia and the rest of the Balkans, there are so many corruption scandals that nobody pays attention to them. Yesterday, a politician was caught stealing millions; today, another politicians is caught receiving huge bribes; tomorrow…. Ultimately, what could be considered as a crime, has become trivial; nothing more than a reason to switch TV channels with a comment such as ‘just another crook’. The principle of inflation will have to be seriously researched because it is destroying the social and political fabric of modern society. In some, rather limited, cases, like with Hasan Elahi, inflation has a positive function.

Here is a Hasan’s story delivered at the 2011 Lift conference in Geneva.

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