On tyrranic surveillance

Today, I considered publishing my public key. Unfortunately, I don’t have a dedicated e-mail address for this server yet (might make some cock.li bullshit e-mail just to be able to get in touch with you). When I set up my mail server (which is a fucking pain in the ass to do), I’ll get right on it.

In the meantime, let us talk about PGP and it’s application to fighting censorship.

First the why (I like to behave like a Bond-villain and explain my motivation beforehand): Today, I got an election newspaper from none other than a far-left party, telling me to vote for them in the upcoming Euroelections. What they described as a voting point shocked me to my core: We will fight internet censorship. If you have no idea about communism, you may be tempted to believe them. However, there was actually the censorship office which was responsible for censoring any topics the Party didn’t like. That is why Robinson Crusoe has none of the religious meaning it had in the original. Many other books suffered the same fate, because religion was a punishable offence under the Party rule.

What every activist gets wrong

Lately, what I have seen in the news and online makes me want to start selling mini-guillotines: Come forward, one and all, to get your dick chopped off because then, you could all go fuck yourselves. Seriously, this issue makes me simmer. If I explode, it’s not too bad.It’s when I go quiet is when I’m really pissed off. This blogpost serves as a vent.

What is my issue, you ask? Simple. The supporters of a ruling party demand that any opposing party be put under strict surveillance. They want to know what the opposing groups are up to, to be able to keep the peace and resist a peaceful or violent coup. Sure, a surveilled opposition is ultimately a predictable enemy, can’t deny that as much as I’d like to.

Let me think as the ruling party for a bit: How do fuck this pig? The answer is simple. Call for the mass surveillance of any entity not in cahoots with the ruling party. Anyone who doesn’t listen to us will be watched. The party will decide who is or isn’t watched.

This sounds dystopian, doesn’t it? But this is exactly what I hear from everyone everywhere! The song of the day is “Silence everyone who disagrees with my party! No one should hear them speak!”

What could go wrong, I ask you. Is there any point where this plan may come back and bite me in the ass? Why yes, there is! Starting at the wording: Once you give this right to $THERULINGPARTY, you are giving rights to anyone in power. It may seem a surprise, but political parties change. The ruling party of today may be the opposition tomorrow. Today’s rulers, tomorrow’s slaves. That is the main issue I have with giving any government power to surveil its citizens. I may agree with a certain political party, but once they ask for my personal info, they are dead to me. Don’t let your affiliations cloud your judgement.

What to do?

Simple: Tell anyone who wants permission to spy on you to fuck off, even if it were your favourite party. Sure, if it’s the only point you have a problem with, vote for them, but be sure to voice your disagreement at this. Seriously, there is enough big government as it is. More surveillance is the last thing this world needs. Just look at every mass killing in recent history. San Bernadino? Agencies knew. Boston Marathon bombing? Again, it was no news at the spy table. Paris shooting? Same story. What I’m very interested in knowing is how many of these attacks we didn’t hear about because they were stopped in time. I doubt there are too many.

My main concern is the fact that people have yielded power to any corporation that provides them with a convenience. People should educate themselves about what they can do themselves. I stress this to my pupils. Password managers, self-hosted services, that is what could make our world a happier place. Just imagine the news: “The website of Mr Peter Jackson was broken into last week and his personal information has been leaked.” ONE person. Not hundreds of thousands, one guy’s personal info. The loot from a hack would be so much lower that the trouble of hacking a service might stop being worth it for the capable ones. If I hacked Facebook, I’d be set for life. But what if an agency dumped thousands of dollars into getting into a server, only for it to contain my dog’s photos? I believe a very fitting description of this would be “hacking into a broom closet” (thanks, Tinker).

In the meantime…

Now, since legislation moves like a tortoise with its legs blown off, Here’s what you can do in the meantime.

1) Vote with your wallet: The six-camera, seven microphone smartphone may look nice, but is it secure? Is it repairable? How difficult is it to stop any services? Is there a hardware switch you can flip?
2) Don’t give stuff away for free. This includes your personal data. If you really want that 10% first-purchase discount, get a burner e-mail. Mailinator.com is a great one for this.
3) Make an online alias.
4) Get your stuff off the “big web”. Google drive? You can most likely host your own. Secure chat in lieu of Whatsapp? You could run your own or get something that doesn’t belong to big corporations. That is the key information here. Using someone else’s service is okay (I do it, too), but hosting your own is a million times better for a) learning and b) getting freedom. I have never looked back at any google-drive since I have a NAS and my own VPS.
5) Educate your children. Kids can live a happy, surveillance-free life if you enforce some ground rules early on. Don’t worry, they won’t suffer for it. I’m a teacher and from what I see, blind brand-following is scoffed at. 6) Use strong encryption whenever feasible. If you want to use PGP on twitter, tough shit, but over e-mail/Mastodon, you may use it.

For all of you, this short-form vomit is over.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one!

-m