So I’m sure you have all heard of PRISM, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Lavabit. I’m also sure you have heard of Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange. You might have heard of Aaron Schwartz. You’ve definitely heard of PIPA and SOPA. And you know what, this list is endlessly long. But there are two pieces of recent news that I’d like to talk about.
First is the David Miranda incident and it’s aftermath. Ever since the internet exploded, we have slowly but surely outgrown the government’s control of mass media. Propaganda is harder to spread since there are many on the internet willing to take time and debunk lies and myths that the government attempts to spread. Unlike printed media, you cannot control all of the voices in the blogosphere. Everyone can create their own soap box to stand on and speak. Because of this trend, the government has to resort to greater intimidation tactics to try and influence those who are speaking out. These tactics are both highly unethical and borderline illegal. Laws are twisted and sometimes flat out ignored by the government. And you know what? This is the future. This is where we are all headed. A world where a Chinese police state is the norm except the public has no idea that it’s happening.
Do you think your government is different? That your politicians aren’t corrupt? Let me tell you this, America isn’t the only bad apple in the basket. Every government is capable of violating your privacy because, as all technologists have known for a long time, not all protocols are perfectly secure. And even if they were, all it takes is the government exerting secretive powers to strong arm companies and individuals into doing their bidding. And when they choose to protect their users instead of betraying them? Their companies and lives are destroyed ala Lavabit. We live in a world where hard working, honest people can be threatened by governments at will without repercussions. A world where people like David Miranda can be detained for bogus reasons just to intimidate them into being quiet. A world where being the Bolivian president doesn’t mean jack shit.
And you know what, good people will continue to fight the good fight. But how long can that keep continuing? Especially when personal possession can be confiscated and destroyed without compensation. Without reason. Without and legal standing. All all without any recourse from the individual. Or when technology can be compromised or simply forced to shut down ala Lavabit or Silent Circle. Apparently not long as this bring me to the second bit of news I want to highlight. Groklaw is shutting down.
Email is a vital part of communication in the modern world as are SMS (texting), VoIP, XMPP, and various other protocols. But just like phonecalls and mail before them, all governments are capable of intercepting these messages. We never had privacy which is why anonymous sources and secretive meetings were some of the few ways confidential information was passed along. But in our technological age, where confidential information can come from all over the world, we are reaching the point where nothing may be confidential anymore. If the government has years of history on every as well as access to all of their private, personal data, then we are at a dead end. Encryption? That won’t last. Secure channels? Doesn’t exist when the companies running the hubs have been compromised. The only option is to risk your sources and fight or shutdown in the biggest way possible so as to make a splash that will hopefully ripple into a wave of political activists.
Groklaw is taking the second route. For that I am thankful but at the same time, I mourn the loss of perhaps the greatest objective news source in the intellectual property fight. Without them, it is not a stretch to say that Android would not exist. That the current state of the internet would not be possible. Or that we would have a choice for computing software/hardware outside of Microsoft and perhaps even Apple. I sincerely hope their death will not be in vain.
So I guess it’s time to ask, can you trust your government? I don’t for the obvious reason that I live in America and we have had the blessing of the PRISM leaks. Snowden gave us a fighting chance to force the government to reveal all of its corruption. Everyone else? History and recent evidence says no. So how about we all come together and think of a way to take back control of our lives and our governments?