I happened upon a blog entry by ISP head Michele Neylon, and some of the commentary, especially that of Brian Lowe [see update below]. I wanted to respond to Mr. Lowe, but I need to login with my Facebook credentials to do so. I don't have a facebook account, so I'm commenting here:

Hi Brian Lowe,

I attended my GP shortly after the Snowden stories broke. She asked me what all the fuss was about, citing the "nothing to hide" meme. I asked her if she had received the report from the surgeon regarding that surgery he had conducted on me recently. She had. I asked her if it came in a sealed envelope. She confirmed it had. I asked her whether she thought it appropriate for (a) the Irish Government, (b) the British Government, or (c) the US Government to have opened that letter and taken a copy of it for their files and then sent it on to her. She was horrified at the thought.

None of the international agreements that Ireland or Britain subscribe to make a distinction between online privacy and offline. Where they address privacy of communications, they do so without reference to the medium of communication.

If you don't care that the governments are opening letters to and from your GP regarding your health, that's fine. However, you can't speak for me. I do care. And, as I use the means of communication that's appropriate for the context, if I want to take steps to protect that communication from being read by others (e.g. like putting a letter into an envelope and licking it closed or encrypting an e-mail), then the international agreements that this state has signed up to that assert my rights to privacy apply, and I can do this without asking anyone's permission and without being automatically suspected by the government for simply doing that.

And it doesn't just cover e-mails to my doctor, but also to my bank, my employer, my wife, daughters and son, and everyone else to whom I am permitted to send a letter in a sealed envelope, which happens to be everybody!

Remember, the government should behave as you and I instruct it to, and not the other way 'round. If it was the other way 'round, then we wouldn't be able to call it a democracy.

Éibhear

Update [2015-04-22 Wed 14:08]

Unless you have javascript turned off (or – I suspect – unless you have a Facebook account, which I don't), you won't be able to see the original comment. Because of that, I'm reproducing the comment here.

Who needs encryption? and why?

What's the harm to me if my emails and tweets are read by MI5, the FBI, the CIA, Mossad, the KGB. I have nothing incriminating or even interesting to them in my online communications.

If allowing the security services (home or foreign) to read my emails will help them monitor terrorists and prevent attacks then I'm very happy for it to continue.

If keeping my emails private means I'm at risk of attack from unmonitored terrorists then I don't want that privacy.