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[liberationtech] eternity USENET (Re: Internet blackout)

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at
Sat Jun 29 20:43:05 PDT 2013

Eleanor Saitta:
> 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 your threat model?

> What is the tool that provides for metadata obfuscation for email?

Schluder for mailing lists. Mix{master,minion} for email. TorBirdy,
Enigmail, Thunderbird - for metadata obfuscation when communicating with
a mail/news server and so on.

> What is the tool that provides for locational privacy with GSM data?

GSM data? Do you mean, how do you protect your location from your
tracking device service company? :)

That's a trick question!

> What is the tool that provides for anonymity when ordering food on
> Seamless?


You need to define the kind of anonymity you're describing - the word
anonymity is a lot like security - without context, it seems awkward or

> 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.

It depends. I think this is largely a problem for a specific set of the
middle class and above - I meet all kinds of people regularly that just
have a feature phone. And then a Macbook air. Baffling. I rarely meet a
working class person with a Macbook but almost always, a feature phone.
I know this is chalk full of selection bias.

> 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 don't buy the move out of the city argument. I see the point but I
think that it is a future that hasn't yet arrived. Or rather - it
augments more often than replaces. I have yet to visit an entire city
that only takes bitcoins by QR code.

>> 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.

I'm not asking people to do that - I'm asking people to ask themselves
what choice they feel is reasonable - is *always* carrying a phone
reasonable? Is *always* not carrying a phone? Why so extreme?

I've had a mobile phone for more than half of my life - still - I think
the choice is a reasonable one to make.

> 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.

Sure, I think that is true.

> 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.

The point is not merely that someone follows advice. Rather, a key point
is to show that there is anything to be done at all. Some people don't
think there is anything to be done - period.

People are often already in a state of helplessness and fear -
explaining how some systems are totally doomed, like Skype, is fine. We
are helpless to fix it. Give up on Skype if you want privacy, security,
integrity and so on. If you want great rates and malware, install away.
Treat it like the plague on humanity it is - better than traditional
telco for costs and worse in every other way. Who knew the ITU could be
more transparent and reasonable than... anyone, anywhere?

The tools need UX fixes - there is no question about it. For those tools
to have users, they need to understand the motivations and that
solutions are possible. If the solutions work but they have issues - it
is much much better than nothing. If there is no other example, I put
the Tor Browser Bundle forward as an example. Only the most recent alpha
releases have a reasonable UX. Millions of downloads and hundreds of
thousands of daily users. Even with a bad UX, people need actual options.

All the best,

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