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[liberationtech] Do You Like Online Privacy? You May Be a Terrorist

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Thu Feb 2 09:15:38 PST 2012

Do You Like Online Privacy? You May Be a Terrorist

February 1, 2012 in Featured

Public Intelligence

A flyer designed by the FBI and the Department of Justice to promote
suspicious activity reporting in internet cafes lists basic tools used for
online privacy as potential signs of terrorist activity.  The document, part
of a program called “Communities Against Terrorism”, lists the use of
“anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address” as a sign that a
person could be engaged in or supporting terrorist activity.  The use of
encryption is also listed as a suspicious activity along with steganography,
the practice of using “software to hide encrypted data in digital photos” or
other media.  In fact, the flyer recommends that anyone “overly concerned
about privacy” or attempting to “shield the screen from view of others”
should be considered suspicious and potentially engaged in terrorist

Logging into an account associated with a residential internet service
provider (such as Comcast or AOL), an activity that could simply indicate
that you are on a trip, is also considered a suspicious activity.  Viewing
any content related to “military tactics” including manuals or “revolutionary
literature” is also considered a potential indicator of terrorist activity.
This would mean that viewing a number of websites, including the one you are
on right now, could be construed by a hapless employee as an highly
suspicious activity potentially linking you to terrorism.

The “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities” contained in the flyer are
not to be construed alone as a sign of terrorist activity and the document
notes that “just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or
way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.”
However, many of the activities described in the document are basic practices
of any individual concerned with security or privacy online.  The use of PGP,
VPNs, Tor or any of the many other technologies for anonymity and privacy
online are directly targeted by the flyer, which is distributed to businesses
in an effort to promote the reporting of these activities.

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