The Capitol riot was a boundary-busting event in almost every way, and its impact on the digital privacy debate was no different. The insurrectionists’ acts were so galling, so frightening, that suddenly, even those who might oppose digital surveillance and forensics techniques in other contexts, like, say, identifying peaceful protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally, feel justified in deploying those tools against the rioters. The shifting goalposts have sparked a tense debate among researchers of online extremism about the right way to stitch together the digital scraps of someone’s life to publicly accuse them of committing a crime — or whether there is a right way at all.
The protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally were, for the most part, protesting peacefully, as is their right. Yes, there was some Target looting (video link) and Trump occasionally attacked protestors for a photo op, but the protestors were not planning a coup or taking hostages. The white supremacists and Trump supporters attempting to overthrow the government and vandalizing the Capitol were looking for violence as soon as they left their homes and hotel rooms. If you’re out there looking for a fight, attacking reporters, and stockpiling ammo and molotov cocktails, and then bragging about it on social media, my feeling is you’ve already lost your right or expectation of anonymity.
This isn’t a moving goalposts situation; if you drive through an intersection with a green light, the camera doesn’t take a photo of you and your car, but if the light is red and you run it, then smile for the camera. If you are doing illegal things, law enforcement shouldn’t have one hand tied behind their backs while trying to identify you. You do have rights, but you lose those rights in the course of illegally trespassing, for example.
I am failing to see the issue here.