Tuesday 13th was #TheDayWeFightBack a global day of action to raise awareness and make our voices heard in protest against mass surveillance. We took part in our own small way so hopefully some of you saw the banner when visiting our site and showed your support.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation –
“nearly 250,000 people inside the US that called or emailed their legislators yesterday for The Day We Fight Back. And that’s not even touching the more than 200,000 people around the world that organized actions and signed on to the Necessary and Proportionate principles.”
The campaign didn’t reach the millions that the SOPA/PIPA protests of 2012 did, but it was still a significant achievement and despite the name the fight against mass surveillance was never going to be won in a day.
Taking part in a last minute local event, my first time speaking publicly on the topics of surveillance, privacy, security, topics of which I claim no expertise, I realised how important it is to open and hold public space to discuss and share even what little we do know. Preparing for the event, checking my facts also gave me time to reflect on events of the past year.
Day in day out the Snowden revelations keep coming. At times there seems no end to the sheer depth and scale of the surveillance programs of the NSA and their 5 Eyes partners. One thing certainly has no end, that is the desire of the NSA and it’s partners to eliminate privacy from our lives.
The scale is overwhelming, even for those well
schooled in such matters. So too, the complexity of the issues, legally, politically, technically, make it a hard story to follow. We might even suffer from surveillance fatigue, but we must not surrender. Mass surveillance cannot be the new norm.
So what is privacy? Why is it so important and why does it matter so much? ‘I have nothing to hide, I’m not doing anything wrong’ the tirelessly repeated mantra of apologists for such regimes.
Privacy is essential to life in a free society. Private space is that in which we find the freedom to imagine and explore who we want to be. It’s a space in which we get to make mistakes, a space in which we can experiment and cook up crazy dreams and schemes.
You know what it’s like, that feeling of having someone looking over your shoulder, judging your every move. Now imagine what that does to whole populations. Surveillance is incredibly corrosive to the human spirit. It erodes trust, imagination, creativity and fosters paranoia and conformity.
Events like #TheDayWeFightBack are important in bringing activists together, helping us to identify with broader networks and communities. A part from the legal and political struggle we can make efforts to educate ourselves and our friends on personal security. If you would like to learn about free software tools to secure your communications in multiple languages try https://securityinabox.org
I had this really odd thought recently. What if privacy was cool. What if we respected privacy. What if when we meet with friends, we make a point of turning off our phones and devices, we could take a break from feeding the best, and instead offer all of our attention to the present moment, as a sign of respect for those we are with, we just turn them off. Wishful thinking?
“If you have nothing to hide, why not let someone film in your bedroom and bathroom?” asks Jérémie Zimmermann, from French digital rights group La Quadrature du Net, in a song where he partners with La Parisienne Libérée.
I attended the 30c3 in Hamburg in December there were a number of great talks and I highly recommend checking them out here http://media.ccc.de/browse/congress/2013/
I’ll leave you with a quote from a discussion at 30c3 with Julian Assange where he calls on SysAdmins of the World to Unite.
“This is the last free generation. The coming together of the systems of governments, the new information apartheid, across the world, linking together in such that none of us will be able to escape it in just a decade. Our identities will be coupled to the information sharing such that none of us will be able to escape it. We are all becoming part of the state, whether we like it or not. So our only hope is to determine what sort of state it is that we are going to become part of. And we can do that by looking and being inspired by some of the actions that produced human rights and free education and so on by people recognizing that they were part of the state, recognizing their own power and taking concrete and robust action to make sure they lived in the sort of society they wanted to and not in a hell-hole dystopia.” Julian Assange