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[liberationtech] eternity USENET (Re: Internet blackout)

Eleanor Saitta ella at
Sat Jun 29 10:39:56 PDT 2013

Hash: SHA256

On 2013.06.29 12.37, Jacob Appelbaum wrote:
> Eleanor Saitta:
>> None of those tools exist right now, not for locational privacy
>> and metadata obfuscation.
> I disagree about the existence. Perhaps, I think we might be able
> to agree on certain values of 'unusable' rather than saying they
> don't exist?

What is the tool that provides for metadata obfuscation for email?
What is the tool that provides for locational privacy with GSM data?
What is the tool that provides for anonymity when ordering food on

I include this last example specifically because it's trivial.  We
(mostly) live in cities that have evolved cultures and ways of
interacting that do not preserve our privacy.  In the past decade,
many of those services have started to involve either the Internet or,
now, smartphones.

When you ask someone to "stop carrying a phone", you're asking them to
stop living in a city.  Not by moving, obviously - they don't have to
go anywhere, but for someone who lives in the West and currently uses
a smartphone, they're functionally leaving; they're changing their
life to a radical degree and giving up on most of the conveniences of
an urban existence.

For a lot of these things, yes, they're just unusable right now; we
mostly see eye to eye there.  However, when we're talking about mass
culture change (which is what I'm speaking about here -- this is about
the question of whether "everyone" will stop carrying phones, not
about whether folks in specific high-risk scenarios should), unusable
means non-existent.  Privacy against state surveillance is one small
factor in most people's lives, and as much as people may be outraged,
they're unlikely to 'move out of the city' over it.

> I think that this is an interesting bit of advice and it really
> depends a lot on a person's context. I think it may be an unequal
> burden to not carry a phone that is always switched on. For some it
> is easy and for others, it simply doesn't reflect their contextual
> requirements.
> Are you a sysadmin? Are you on call as a doctor? Is your partner
> really controlling or excessively worried? Probably it isn't
> possible to take the advice of not carrying a phone. Or at least -
> there are times when not carrying a phone builds up a kind of
> stress that isn't worth the effort.

See above.  You're asking people to completely disrupt the structure
and fabric of their social lives, often now people who have never had
an independent social life that didn't involve coordinating things on
a cellphone (if you're under, say, 26, this is probably you).  There
are some people who definitely won't be able to not carry a phone,
yes, but for most people, all it means is completely changing every
physical social interaction they have.  No big deal.

Yes, in some and possibly even many cases this may be well-warranted,
at least until the tools become usable, but in most it isn't feasible.

There is no point in giving advice to people that won't be followed.
It's likely actually worse than useless, because it encourages learned
helplessness and fear.  If we know the tools aren't usable and that
the disruption to people's lives is of a magnitude inconsistent with
their motivation, then we need to carefully consider what we tell people.


- -- 
Ideas are my favorite toys.
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