Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Net Rises to Fight the Surveillance State!
Ed Snowden: His revelations have set the Internet to work to combat the super snoops!
Even as the Denver Post Sunday Editorial blistered the laxity of congress and the FISA courts in failing to oversee the indiscriminate NSA surveillance ('Surveillance Court Must Be Reformed', p.3D), noting they have "wandered far from the Constitution in the quest to keep the nation free and safe" (that's putting it mildly!), the internet is now gathering muscle to outwit and outmatch the snoops. (Essential given the NSA "can now tap into 75% of all internet traffic" according to one Post citation of a WSJ article).
Start with yesterday's Financial Times article ('Internet Launches Fight Against State Snoopers') noting that an organization called the Internet Engineering Task Force (which develops internet standards) is proposing a system whereby ALL communications between websites and browsers will be protected by encryption. Something astounding and never before heard of? Hell NO! Merely using the same methods of encryption already used by banks and commercial entities like Amazon, to protect customers across the world wide web.
Certainly then, if customers (i.e. consumers) deserve such protection from snoops, so do citizens! Indeed, citizen rights to privacy as enshrined in the 4th amendment ought to be sacrosanct before any consumer protections.
The FT notes that while this plan is still in an early, developmental phase, it has the potential to transform the net and make it more difficult for governments and criminals to eavesdrop on citizens as they browse the web. After all, NO one is entitled to your own predilections, thoughts, opinions, words, unless you choose to disclose them - such as I do on this blog- which a certain unnamed, deranged and hateful loser (who rails about everything on it) would do better to avoid if he really wishes to spare himself from an early grave via stroke. (But maybe he never heard of not tuning in on a station if it evokes outrage, which leads me to conclude he's a masochist.)
Anyway, according to one software engineer cited in the FT piece: "There's been a complete change in how people perceive the world" since super patriot Edward Snowden did his patriotic duty (above any "oaths" or "orders") and revealed the extent of the NSA snoop machinery in their PRISM and Xkeyscore programs. Since Snowden did that, users of the net now understand how fragile their communications and how vulnerable their privacy, not to mention having gov't know more about them than they know about it.
Along with the IETF push to implement encryption systems impervious to the government snoops, other initiatives are also under way, such as an impetus for assorted groups to push for fundamental reforms in laws governing the web. (To reduce user transparency) The groups include the World Wide Web Foundation, as well as the ACLU which has condemned the NSA blanket surveillance.
Meanwhile, as a recent article ('My Own Private Internet') in Mother Jones documents (Sept-Oct, p. 30) creative software techies have already created a "parallel net" (actually a mesh) which "is faster than the Net we pay for" and which has the capability to skirt the snoopers. Data travels through this mesh nearly 30 times faster than the commercial net.
Already Joseph Bonicioli (the developer) has created a community mesh (the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network) which has over 1,000 members who can "send messages, video chat, and exchange huge files without ever appearing on the regular internet". In other words, beyond the ears and eyes of the snoops, whether ensconced in NSA or its Brit counterpart GCHQ. According to Mr. Bonicioli:
"It's like a whole other web. It's our network and also a playground."
He adds his mesh has become "a major social hub with blogs, discussion forums, and a Craigs knockoff". And all this beyond the prying eyes of the government's surveillance renegades.
Bonicioli adds that "anyone can join free by installing some equipment".
The MJ article goes on to note that the Athens mesh is by no means unique, and "scores of communities worldwide have been building these roll your own networks - because a mesh can also be used as a cheap way to access the regular internet."
The MJ piece adds:
"In an era where governments and corporations are increasingly tracking our online movements, the user-controlled networks are emerging as an almost subversive concept. 'When you run your own network, no one can shut it down' said Bonicioli."
Will the Internet finally conquer the super snoops? I believe it will and probably the community mesh solution will multiply as users become more empowered - distrusting the coziness of the commercial net providers with the government. In the meantime, the IEFT encryption solution will be prodded onward but whether the powers-that-be allow it remains to be seen. Meanwhile, hopes for the FISA courts and congress to grow a pair to rein in NSA may be expecting too much. Most of their members have obviously lost sight of the 4th amendment if they ever believed in it.