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[liberationtech] The missing component: Mobile to Web interoperability (in Internet Freedom Technologies)

Michael Rogers michael at briarproject.org
Tue Sep 24 06:56:48 PDT 2013


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On 24/09/13 05:21, Jonathan Wilkes wrote:
> Is Briar able to hide metadata that describes who is messaging
> whom within the network from an attacker with a splitter on the
> internet and a $50+ billion budget?

We'll see. :-) Briar moves communication off the internet wherever
possible, and when communicating across the internet it uses Tor
hidden services to conceal social relationships. So it may justify the
attacker's budget more than current systems do.

But I take your point that all digital communication is vulnerable to
surveillance, and that our individual choices to communicate digitally
may threaten our collective freedom. The question is, what should we
do about that? Even the postal service is digitally surveilled these
days - should we restrict ourselves to face-to-face conversations?
What about hidden microphones - should we have all our conversations
naked, inside Faraday cages?

It's clear that we can't stay sane and guarantee that we're free from
surveillance. So we have to make tradeoffs. I believe that P2P social
networks offer a better privacy/convenience tradeoff than centralised
social networks. They don't guarantee absolute privacy against an
adversary with unlimited powers - nothing can. But they're less bad
than current systems.

> It's probably better to say that goodwill does not address such
> moral hazards.  People can develop and maintain friendships over
> the internet, but currently doing so creates a toxic waste that
> silently eats away at our collective freedom.

Thanks, I understand better now what you mean by moral hazard. I don't
have an answer to your question of how communication tools should
explain that moral hazard to their users. I'm not sure it's even a
matter of explanation - informed individual choices may still lead to
collectively detrimental outcomes.

Surveillance is a collective problem, and as such it requires a
collective solution, which is to say a political solution. But that
doesn't mean technology is irrelevant - it can contribute to a
political solution in two ways. First, it can raise the cost and lower
the effectiveness of surveillance, making surveillance harder to
justify politically. Second, it can support political action by
enabling people to speak, associate and organise, in private and in
public. I think those are two reasonable goals for technologists to
set themselves, as part of a broader political effort against
surveillance.

Cheers,
Michael
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