More NSA Revelations by The Guardian Drive The Point Home: You're Being Spied On.  What can we do?

It's hard to feel shocked by these revelations anymore.  Anyone who has been paying attention has had some idea of the existence of this kind of massive surveillance technology.  The revelations by Snowden, and The Guardian, have only served to legitimize those previously vilified as "Conspiracy Theorists."  Since at least the year 2000, we have known that the NSA runs massive data collection programs.  They've been running them since the 1950s, ECHELON is one such set of programs.  PRISM, XKeyscore, and their ilk are just further advances in the technology of collecting, analyzing, and storing every bit of data about every person, whether that person is a threat or not.  

The question at this point is: what, if anything, can we do about it?

What Society can do about invasive mass surveillance:

Actually, lets start with what we can't do.

What Society can't do:

1. We can't legislate it away.  Congress isn't going to try.  Even if they did, Clandestine Agencies don't particularly care about laws.  Apart from the illegal stance of such agencies, it's basically impossible to legislate away widely used technology.  I go more into depth on this point in another post.

2. We can't simply cease using all of the services that we know are being surveilled.  The economic cost of attempting to do this would be insurmountable.  We need the internet, we need google, we need microsoft, we need our cell phones, at least for now.  It's possible that we will see competitors like duck duck go, who are unwilling to be complicit in these illegal spying activities, start to gain market share, and maybe then we can abandon entirely the services that we all currently rely on every day.

What society can do:

1. Decentralize the Internet.  Right now, the backbones of the internet are owned by a tiny number of massive corporations; corporations who have proven to be complicit in the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.  Decentralizing the internet would be a massive undertaking.  It would require a huge number of people to be willing to run a small server at home, which other users could move through on their way to whatever IP address they're trying to access.  There's a lot of technological and sociological hurdles to decentralizing the internet, but it is possible, and it would do a lot to prevent these massive, invasive, surveillance programs.  For now at least, you can use TOR.  You can also get involved in Project Meshnet.

2. Open-source everything.  Maybe not everything, but everything that has to do with communications, or anything that lives on your computer(phones, tablets, etc.)  Software that isn't open sourced should be regarded with skepticism.  Microsoft has assisted the NSA with backdoors into Outlook and Skype.  Why should you trust Windows or Office?  Open sourcing isn't actually that difficult for a society to pull off.  We already have quite a lot of open source software.  There's only a few problems here: open source software isn't all that profitable to create, so many businesses don't bother.

3. Demand incredible transparency.  We're never going to get transparency out of our 3-letter agencies, so we can probably forget about that right now.  We can, however, demand transparency from our publicly traded corporations, and even our privately held corporations.  If a company wants to do business, they need to be incredibly transparent.  The NSA would be largely incapable of undertaking projects like PRISM and XKeyscore without the help of major corporations.  If all of the major corporations felt compelled to share literally everything they were doing, it wouldn't take us long to cripple these spying programs.

4. Spam the NSA.  Individuals can do this easily enough on their own, but it takes millions of us doing it in order for it to be effective.  Install trackmenot.  Perform searches for bomb creation instructions.  Send an email to yourself which includes fake plans for overthrowing the government or waging jihad.  Write fanfiction about your (least)favorite terrorist organization.  Reddit recently engaged in one such campaign, and it was a lot of fun.  If you're not that creative, Motherboard has a program that will help you generate ideas.

What Individuals can do:

1. Don't volunteer your information.  Facebook is the largest voluntary intelligence dragnet in history.  I realize that this point is somewhat in conflict with point 2 of "What society can't do" above, but you don't actually need Facebook.  If Facebook mysteriously ceased existing tomorrow, the world would shrug and go back to other forms of communicating/stalking each other.  The same thing could not be said of The Internet or Windows.  This doesn't just apply to Facebook, though.  Volunteering your location information and activities on Foursquare or Twitter is every bit as bad.

2. Encrypt your transmissions.  A lot of people are going around speculating that the NSA has cracked every encryption method.  This is pure speculation, and it has been refuted by Snowden who said "Encryption works."  If anyone was in a position to know, it's him.  Encrypt your voice chats with Mumble.  Encrypt your text chats with Jabber.  Encrypt your internet usage, uploads and downloads with a VPN Service.



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