How can we battle against state surveillance?

You Shall Not Pass!

You Shall Not Pass!

This post is working under the assumption that the type of state surveillance that has been uncovered by Edward Snowden’s leaks is an abuse of power, and should be opposed by any right-thinking person. While I am willing to consider national security arguments from time to time, it seems to me that the level of tools deployed by the NSA and GCHQ are completely disproportionate to the threat level presented by terrorism, and we do not possess the adequate checks and balances and necessary oversight to make sure that abuses are not committed in the name of security.

If this is not your opinion, you may be reading the wrong blog.

So how do we oppose the level of state surveillance that we are reading about? In a recent tweet on the subject, Jacob Appelbaum made an interesting comment regarding the opposition to surveillance:

While I agree with the general sentiment that this message is conveying, I cannot help but fear that such solutions are unworkable at a wider scale, as the amount of people who are capable of deploying the type of strong encryption needed to foil surveillance is very small. Even experienced users who are capable of deploying such tools usually do not do so because of convenience, it is difficult to think that the state is watching you specifically. Moreover, such technical solutions leave the largest portion of the population at the mercy of surveillance mechanisms, creating a technical surveillance divide between those who can and cannot defend themselves.

Another technical solution would be to rebuild the Internet into something that will be capable of a much more decentralised architecture. Habitual readers will know that one of my most re-visited arguments in the last couple of years is the description that the Internet is becoming increasingly centralised, and therefore it is easier to be the subject of control that has been uncovered by people like Snowden and Appelbaum. One such project is redecentralize.org, a site that brings together some of the individual efforts designed to make the Internet a distributed network as it was initially intended. While I completely applaud such initiatives, I am afraid that it may take a while for them to become viable.

I am more inclined to think that the way to go is to conduct test litigation against the UK and US government to attempt to at least get some sort of proper oversight to the programmes. While individuals can help by bringing litigation, the best hope that we have is to rely onr organisations such as ORG and EFF. If you have not done it already, you should help by donating money to these institutions.

2 comments to How can we battle against state surveillance?

  • I think the key here is the word state. The one thing we must achieve this year is that by the end of 2014 no-one in politics can say that British people don’t care about the surveillance issue. 

    This doesn’t require anyone to rely on NGOs, technical solutions or courts and lawyers. All it requires is the one few free things you have left- your vote. Make it crystal clear to your MP, local party branches, your MEPs your views on this issue and be explicit that you will not vote for anyone who supports the surveillance state.

    It is worth remembering that all of this is happening in a wider political context, most politicians will take the view that while it is crucial what they think about NHS, Immigration or the Economy, tech issues are peripheral. 

    It is up to us to put these issues at the heart of British politics. And to convince others. That is the best hope we have – because it is about what we can all do together.

  • With so many moving parts, I’m often wondering what I can do to help our cause.  Donating to these organizations is something we should all do.

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