We haven’t taken a formal stance on NSA/GCSB snooping because although it’s related to internet freedom we feel that it’s outside of art and copyright (except, perhaps, for how their logo infringed copyright!).
That said, we’ve been asked to comment so here are our thoughts.
We suggest that people concerned with this do not wait on law changes to increase their privacy. Law changes should occur but this shouldn’t prevent people making it harder for others to snoop on them,
- Firstly, don’t assume that these techniques work perfectly. If these spy agencies want someone then they will probably be able to get their data. If you want complete privacy don’t put it online. These suggestions are just ways of making that snooping more difficult.
- Spread your data around more services, so web search via StartPage.com or DuckDuckGo.com instead of just Google Search.
- If you use Gmail then try Mailvelope.
- If you use Android, and send txts, then try TextSecure.
- Find out more things you can do at http://prism-break.org/
What we do know is that,
- the NSA are engaged in spying for the commercial benefit of US companies that has nothing to do with terrorism. They’re involved in industrial espionage.
- The initial denials from Google/Microsoft etc don’t deny a substantive thing — there’s enough wiggle room in vague non-technical terms like “direct access” that the accusation and the denial could both be true.
There are some journalist’s responses that downplay the importance of these leaks. Despite being from Gawker this article is quite a good response to those who would downplay this.
Due to the secretive nature of this data collection and spying it will be difficult to know if law changes can ever reign it in. We’re certainly hopeful that law changes will work, and we support awareness-raising efforts like The Day We Fight Back, but the internet is a copying machine and so preventing the copying of personal data may be difficult.
Making privacy-enhancing technology takes time so don’t despair if some of it is difficult to use right now because it will be improved. If it doesn’t work for you now then try again in 6 months. It’s worth paying attention how technology-makers will adapt to these spying revelations, even if that response may take a while.