By John Klein (aka Saskboy)
There’s no way to escape the overseeing PRISM eye of the US electronics intelligence service the NSA, right? Not entirely true. If you use American or British nodes to route your Internet traffic, odds are your every communication will be saved for days at least. Still, you don’t have to send traffic that the NSA can understand. There are tools, free tools, you can utilize today which lessen the likelihood of your search terms being misinterpreted or manipulated by governments in order to put you into very hot water.
How do we know the Americans and British are spying on Canadians? Edward Snowden told us, with proof in the form of documents from the NSA. Now that we know, we have less reason than ever to suppose they are not spying on everyone, innocent or otherwise.
What actions can we take? Elections will have no effect. The party system in both the US and Canada fails citizens completely in this regard. This sort of tyranny will only be defeated by a massive groundswell of citizens behaving in a way that undermines the state’s position of authority. There are peaceful or violent, passive or active means to do that, and I think most of us would certainly prefer peaceful and passive techniques to restore the civil liberties Canadians took for granted for most of the 20th-century.
England has already outlawed one form of peaceful and active resistance to unwanted electronic access of private computers by the government. If they demand a password, you have to give it up. We need to try to maintain this liberty in Canada, because it’s vital that the freedom to encrypt our communication remains a right. It would really be near the top of the list if there were ever an explicit Internet users’ bill of rights. Encryption is recommended by Snowden, “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.” He should know. He’s not alone in
understanding or praising its importance.
Julian Assange in Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet: “We discovered something. Our one hope against total domination. A hope that with courage, insight and solidarity we could use to resist. A strange property of the physical universe that we live in.
“The universe believes in encryption.
“It is easier to encrypt information than it is to decrypt it.”
How can you make use of encryption to limit your exposure to pervasive government mass spying? It’s so easy to get started! There’s a huge list of software choices on this page, and you can start using them now. I’d recommend experimenting with the Tor Browser Bundle right away. You can do searches on the Internet without concern that a government will hold your curiosity against you later on.
In this area of human experience, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Computer security experts and programmers need support from citizens to create always-on secure applications for the masses, because governments are paying for the opposite to take place. The article by Micah Lee that I linked to above, from the Press Freedom Foundation, comes with this somber caution:
“Protecting your privacy in the age of ubiquitous NSA surveillance is incredibly complex. Gaining a basic understanding of the concepts involved, much less actually using the software that’s available, has an enormous learning curve.”
Still, don’t let that discourage you from trying. You’ll find something cool, I promise. Then convince your friends to try Pidgin so you can exchange secret messages with each other. You’ll be able to finish every encrypted email with “This message will self destruct” without the government misconstruing it to mean you’re sending e-letter bombs.