Julian Assange writes in an op-ed in the NYT that we are living in a surveillance society where totalitarian surveillance is embodied in our governments and embedded in our economy, in our mundane uses of technology and in our everyday interactions. Companies like Google and Facebook are in the same business as the U.S. government’s National Security Agency says Assange and their business model is the industrial destruction of privacy. This destruction of privacy widens the existing power imbalance between the ruling factions and everyone else, leaving “the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes,” as Orwell wrote, “still more hopeless.”
According to Assange, the very concept of the Internet — a single, global, homogenous network that enmeshes the world — is the essence of a surveillance state. "The Internet was built in a surveillance-friendly way because governments and serious players in the commercial Internet wanted it that way. There were alternatives at every step of the way. They were ignored." But if there is a “democratic weapon,” that “gives claws to the weak” in George Orwell's words, it is cryptography. "It is cheap to produce: cryptographic software can be written on a home computer. It is even cheaper to spread: software can be copied in a way that physical objects cannot. But it is also insuperable — the mathematics at the heart of modern cryptography are sound, and can withstand the might of a superpower." It is too early to say whether the “democratizing” or the “tyrannical” side of the Internet will eventually win out says Assange. "But acknowledging them — and perceiving them as the field of struggle — is the first step toward acting effectively."
(Score: 2) by zeigerpuppy on Friday December 05 2014, @07:20PM
I would argue against the premise that it's easy to write encryption software. With the standards having been tweaked to their benefit by the NSA, it's also hard to trust most encryption software (apart from those that are easily understood, like rot13).
The logical extension of Assange's argument is that we need structural change in the Internet.
The two most potent changes for average users would probably be:
1) better control over outgoing data build into the OS level (most people have no idea what a firewall is and are intimidated by the trade off in function). This could be much better implemented, maybe even anonomised properly.
2) DNS reform. A safer system of DNS could help to secure Internet comms while also reducing the power of the TLD registrars, or the Name Tsars as I prefer to call them.
(Score: 2) by urza9814 on Monday December 08 2014, @03:55PM
A very good idea...but I don't think it will work. How do you enforce it? "[Program X] would like access to the internet [Allow] [Deny]" -- great, so now the malicious entity just names their virus "WindowsAdvancedUpdater.exe". So you need the binary signed, so you can verify that it is what it claims to be. "[Program X] from [Verified corporation Y]...." Now this is beginning to look like what already exits on mobile. And that may be part of the solution -- easier to add it to mobile and hope casual desktop use dies than to get Microsoft to do something right for once ;) But still, that already exists and it doesn't work. Sometimes I try to explain to people why I use Cyanogenmod on my phone for example, and the Privacy Guard feature is a big thing for me. So I'll start out with "You know when you install a new app and it gives you the list of permissions it requires?" Usually the response is "...wait, what?". People don't even see it. And these are largely my co-workers. Software developers. (Well, Java coders at least ;) If we can't even get developers to pay attention to the most basic security information, what hope do we have with the rest of the world? The other option is to simply reject unsigned or unverified software, but then we enter a world where you can't write software without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a license. Which sounds even worse.
Would love to hear some better ideas if you've got any though.