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[liberationtech] Privacy, data protection questions
brianc at smallworldnews.tv
Fri Mar 22 16:29:38 PDT 2013
Nose to the grindstone Andrew. Use Rich's email to remind you this is hard,
but its still worth doing.
Also remember you aren't going to solve these problems, but you may make it
easier for people who want to act.
Lastly, if Rich is really getting you down, click this link:
That said, do speak to Nathan Freitas, Harlo Holmes, Hans Christoph-Steiner
and others at the Guardian Project, and Bryan Nunez, et al at Witness about
Informacam, IOCipher, and other steps they're taking to solve some of these
Don't just innovate, collaborate.
I'd also like to talk to you about our work on StoryMaker an app to allow
individuals to produce compelling stories and publish them via Tor among
On Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 3:50 PM, Rich Kulawiec <rsk at gsp.org> wrote:
> On Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 09:58:17AM -0500, Andrew Haeg wrote:
> > We're in the late prototype phase for Groundsource<
> > a mobile data collection and engagement platform -- designed for
> > journalists, researchers, NGO's and others to use to gather first-hand
> > knowledge. We've used the prototype to validate the need for the
> > platform, and now privacy & data protection have moved front and center
> > we ramp up for a beta phase later this spring/summer.
> > We've had some early discussions with the Tor Project about protecting
> > journalists using the platform in countries with repressive regimes (down
> > the road). We're also looking into using Wickr for encrypting
> > communications. In the short term, we need advisors who can help guide
> > decisions around privacy and personal data collection & protection.
> Ok. Here's some advice. You're not going to like it. ;-) Sorry.
> But better now than later, when lives are on the line.
> I'd like to ask you to open a web browser and use your favorite
> search engine to search for:
> mobile malware epidemic
> smartphone malware
> android malware
> windows phone malware
> and similar.
> Then I'd like you to explain how you propose to keep all those mobile
> phones secure in the face of routine malware, let alone targeted and
> custom malware crafted by hostile governments who would very much like
> all those journalists and researchers and NGOs you mentioned to STFU
> because they're saying and reporting and doing things those
> governments find...disturbing.
> Forget all the other security and privacy issues for a moment (some of
> which I touched on in a previous list message ): how, EXACTLY, do you
> propose to keep those phones from being infested just like a gazillion
> other phones already are or will be real soon now?
> Because once those endpoints are compromised, all the crafty routing and
> anonymization and encryption layers you could possibly put in place aren't
> going to matter very much. And those endpoints WILL be compromised
> (probably much sooner than you think) because they're going to be in the
> hands of journalists and researchers and NGOs, *not* in the hands of
> paranoid clueful paranoid diligent (did I mention paranoid?) geeks.
> Oh, sure, someone sufficiently knowledgeable, cautious, etc.
> can probably keep *one* phone secure. Just like someone with those
> qualities might be able to keep a single Windows system secure. There are
> people on this list who are capable of both of those things. But dozens?
> Hundreds? Thousands? Being carried around all over the place by
> their owners?
> There's not a chance in hell. None. This is not a solved problem in
> computing. Nor is there even a hint of a twitch of a notion of a
> suggestion of a whisper that it will be solved anytime soon.
> It's not even solved for people who've stacked the deck in their favor
> (e.g., those who have the luxury of centralized control) let alone for
> those who are allowing end users to connect their own. And most of them
> aren't painting big targets on their chests, they're just caught up in
> the general crossfire...unlike *your* users, who are self-nominating to be
> on the business end of some very serious attention from some very
> clueful and nasty people -- people who probably *already* have been
> working on building or buying custom malware for phones because of course
> that's what any prudent adversary with sufficient resources would be
> doing just about now.
> Yeah, okay, so I'm making the point at your expense, and I don't really
> mean to do that, so I'll make it in the more general case: look, people,
> unless you can produce a plan -- and more than that, a plan that's been
> proven in the field to work -- for keeping, let's say, a population of, oh,
> a thousand independent scattered phones free of malware, then you CAN'T
> deploy your whizbang singing dancing smartphone app because it's going to
> be promptly undermined. Any government worthy of the term "oppressive"
> is going to 0wn each and every phone of interest and is going to install
> trackers, spyware, keystroke loggers, and whatever else occurs to them,
> and you're not going to stop them. At best, you might figure out that
> this is happening after-the-fact and remediate some of them...until they
> go back out in the field and get infested again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
> Not to put too fine a point on it (but I suppose I will anyway):
> If someone else can run arbitrary code on your computer,
> it's not YOUR computer any more. 
> The phone may be in a journalist's hand or it may be in a researcher's
> pocket, but it's not theirs. *Not any more*.
> Which means that your liberation app, the one that you designed and
> developed and sweated over, the one that your user is trusting to
> send and receive sensitive information, the one that's connecting
> to a backend through umpteen layers of encryption and obfuscation
> and misdirection and whatever...is now running on the government's phone.
>  I'm probably quoting somebody. But I don't know who.
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Director, Small World News
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