ALCEI Press Release – Jan. 26, 2004

Civil rights and ambiguity of crime “prevention”
There are concerns about a law on data retention issued by the Italian government. The problem was raised by ALCEI in a press release on December 23, 2003. Debate on the subject, locally and internationally, focused on privacy. But it needs to be understood in a wider perspective.

This is a summary of a few key points in a new document [1] published by ALCEI on January 24, 2004. In addition to privacy there are other, and very serious, problems relating to how protection from crime is reconciled with individual rights and freedom.

The concept of responsibility is shifting from proven fact to assumed intention. Sanction or punishment no longer relate to the actual effects of a behavior, but to the “status” of a “category” of people.

While prevention, per se, is legitimate and correct, this way of applying the concept leads to suspicion against (real or imaginary) characterization of people. “Criminal models” are created, to be persecuted not for what they *do*, but for what they *are* – or are assumed to be.

These arbitrary definitions empower anyone who has control to persecute, with a variety of pretexts, anyone who is considered to be uncomfortable, unfriendly or untamed.

As many “behavior patterns” can be made up as suit the whims of whoever has access to retained data. Various forms of persecution are developed against “virtual identities” that can be created “ad hoc” on the basis of prejudice or questionable intentions.

There is no limit to the number or kind of “tendencies” or “types” that can be made to include any person or category of people. The result is a sort of institutionalized pogrom, without even the visibility of a publicly declared ethnic or cultural prejudice.

A consistent watch is to be kept in the defense of civil rights and personal freedom – and this isn”™t only a matter of privacy. The issue goes far beyond the single case of a hastily and clumsily conceived Italian law – that is only an episode in a series that has been going on for several years and is getting worse all the time.