New year new start. What a great opportunity to start it off on the right foot and greatly improve your behaviour and overall awareness on the personal data privacy subject. You will feel great and you will start breaking the chain!

As discussed last time we talked on the matter, our personal data privacy matters a lot, and yet, it is being violated more and more.

A quick glimpse at the news tell us the UK and Theresa May are trying to pass a law that will make it obligatory for internet providers to store every user’s history for up to a year (although the text has just been declared unlawful by EU's Highest Court), or the German secret services are allegedly wanting to decrypt messengers like WhatsApp via the ANISKI project. Mass surveillance is a hot topic, and defo on the rise these days.

Big Deal, I have nothing to hide.

Killing the 'nothing to hide' argument is probably the easiest thing in the world, so try it yourselves (just for fun) if an idiot tells you he/she has nothing to hide, with this set of decent questions/requests I heard a few folks suggest.

  • "Why the fuck do you have curtains in your house?"
  • "Hand me all your passwords if you have fuck all to hide then."
  • "Give me your bank receipts of last year, since there's nothing spectacular in there."

I don’t have anything to hide But I don’t have anything I feel like showing you, either.

So Why is Mass Surveillance wrong?

  • it invades our private life space
  • we have absolutely no control of what is being recorded
  • nor how long it is being stored
  • it might not reflect reality
  • it might reflect the reality and we might not want to let people know things
  • it inhibits free speech
  • it inhibits free association
  • it puts free press in real danger
  • it kills creativity
  • it has yet to be proved successful in the fight against terrorism

The thing is, ...this is far from new.

As discussed in this series' first post, people farming, or automated data processing by the likes of facebook, google and the rest is not only something we signed for (by agreeing to the unread and unreadable services' terms and conditions), but something we have absolutely accepted as THE standard web app model. As in free but far from private.

Examples are countless, but to name only one, feel free to check Über's latest terms of use update, where you grant Über a worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, modify, create derivative works of, distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, and otherwise exploit in any manner any User Content.

Talking about Big Brothers, you will also enjoy those quotes from a Google executive, stating "Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it", or even “With your permission you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches [...] We don't need you to type at all.”

In addition, and as stated in a court filing, "all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing. Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery."

OK, so Google is kind of reading your emails, facebook is recording everything you do/post/interact with for ever, and even if you don't use those services, you are being followed by countless trackers anywhere you go on the web. Not aware of this? Check out the Do not track series, they surely will entertain you.


Any solutions out there?

As clearly stated by Aral Balkan in his talk, regulation, legislation, and ethical design are indeed the answers.

But while waiting for our constitution reps to dump lobbyists and defend our digital rights, let's do our part.

Let's do our part and break the chain

  • Do not use Facebook/Gmail/etc... if you can
  • If you can’t, Do not put your whole life on Facebook, Twitter, etc...
  • Use DuckDuckGo as default search engine, as they don't track you
  • Block laptop camera + laptop microphone if you are not using them
  • Turn off location on your mobile phone as much as you can
  • Turn off your phone at night
  • Use Tor as much as you can on your desktop
  • Use Orbot (and hence Orfox) as much as you can on your android if you have one
  • If you don't have enough patience, use Mozilla's Firefox as default browser. Ok they get funded by the other big guns I'm talking about (as they need mozilla's search traffic). But they're non profit, big on privacy and encryption, so let's give them credit.
  • Block trackers (Better from Indie for Safari, uBlock Origin or Ghostery... although I'm hearing things about Ghostery selling their stats back)
  • Get a Protonmail account ffs! Paying a small amount for private email is good for you, and a very decent model
  • Use Spideroak for cloud storage
  • Use Signal from Open Whisper Systems for encrypted text messaging
  • Use Framatalk or similar tool for video conference
  • and probably the most important part of all:

Otherwise, happy new year!

Publicly yours.