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[liberationtech] RiseUp

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at
Fri Oct 18 10:38:26 PDT 2013

On 10/15/2013 06:47 PM, elijah wrote:
> On 10/15/2013 03:07 PM, Yosem Companys wrote:
>> If you have any thoughts about Riseup, whether
>> security/privacy-related or otherwise, I'd love to hear them.
> I think I am the only person from the Riseup collective who is
> subscribed to liberationtech, so I will reply, although what follows is
> not an official position or response from the collective.
> We started when it was impossible to get even simple IMAP service that
> was affordable. Very early on, it became apparent that one of the
> primary issue facing our constituency (social justice activists) was the
> rapid rise in abusive surveillance by states and corporations.
> Riseup does the best it can with antiquated 20th century technology.
> Without getting into any details, we do the best that can be done,
> particularly when both sender and recipient are using email from one of
> service providers we have special encrypted transport arrangements with.
> Admittedly, the best we can do is not that great. And, of course, our
> webmail offering is laughably horrible.
> Riseup is not really a "US email provider". The great majority of our
> users live outside the United States, and email is just one of many
> services we provide.
> There has been much discussion on the internets about the fact that
> Riseup is located in the US, and what possible country would provide the
> best "jurisdictional arbitrage". Before the Lavabit case, the US
> actually looked pretty good: servers in the US are not required to
> retain any customer data or logs whatsoever. The prospect of some shady
> legal justification for requiring a provider to supply the government
> with their private TLS keys seems to upend everything I have read or
> been told about US jurisprudence. Unfortunately, no consensus has
> emerged regarding any place better than the US for servers, despite
> notable bombast the the contrary.
> As a co-founder of Riseup, my personal goal at the moment is to destroy
> Riseup as we know it, and replace it with something that is based on
> 21st century technology [1]. My hope is that this transition can happen
> smoothly, without undo hardship on the users.
> As evidence by the recent traffic on this list, many people are loudly
> proclaiming that email can never be secure and it must be abandoned. I
> have already written why I feel that this is both incredibly
> irresponsible and technically false. There is an important distinction
> between mass surveillance and being individually targeted by the NSA.
> The former is an existential threat to democracy and the latter is
> extremely difficult to protect against.
> It is, however, entirely possible to layer a very high degree of
> confidentially, integrity, authentication, and un-mappability onto email
> if we allow for opportunistic upgrades to enhanced protocols. For
> example, we should be able to achieve email with asynchronous forward
> secrecy that is also protected against meta-data analysis (even from a
> compromised provider), but it is going to take work (and money) to get
> there. Yes, in the long run, we should all just run pond [2], but in the
> long run we are all dead.

The first thing you should do is remove the social contract from your
registration page.  It's creepy and (should be) completely at odds with
your privacy policy.  (That is, it should read "even _we_ can't ban you
from using our service to talk about the following things in confidence
with others...")

Furthermore, every single bullet point is ambiguous and would be
subject to a flame war if I posted them here.  That is, they are so
wide open that people could reasonably take an opposing view for
any or all of them, in good faith or bad.

Personally, I agree with Riseup's position on those bullet points
(assuming I understand them the same as you).  But I disagree
with requiring people to answer them if they want to try to be
safer when they use the internet.

Essentially, a requirement to click such a button is asking people to
lie to themselves in order to use your service.  Even the Pope and
the military have seen fit to stop making people do that.


> -elijah
> [1]
> [2]

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