More of our rights in the gutter

When I first decided to go back to school and forget all the dreams of becoming a famous guitarist one of the first projects I had to do I chose the subject of encryption. Even back then in 1996 the governments of the western worlds were trying to find ways to stop people from encrypting digital communications.

These days the letter is virtually (sorry that’s not a play on worms) dead. However if the government want to find out what you wrote to your aunt Maude they have to go through a lengthy judicial process to get the legal authority to intercept, open and read about your joy that she reached 73 and can still manage to fend off hypothermia over christmas by eating two hot meals a week and wearing her tog 10 quilt when she watches telly.

Despite every tech savvy individual who cares about our privacy warning us all for the last 15 years that e-mail has never offered the same protection nobody has really taken any notice. 15 years ago though nobody had decided to embark upon a war against ‘terror’. I am sure everyone will agree with the US & UK governments that terrorism is the number one threat to our daily lives and our happiness. Let’s face we all know friends or relaitves who have been physically harmed by terrorists don’t we? Oh wait….

So before the complete terrorist victory over the western world (9/11) that has since justified every dream policy of the old enemies (the stasi, SS, etc…) England, USA, France, Canada and some other country I can’t remember right now got together to create a thing called Echelon. This was/is a series of filtering computers attached to the internet as routers with the sole purpose of intercepting and scanning every single e-mail and digital communication that passed through it for spook sensitive keywords and phrases.

So with the breakdown of the presumed innocent until proven guilty attitude of the law we have to assume (and as a techy I promise you it is utterly guaranteed) that every single e-mail you send to anyone is automatically scanned for the spook’s favourite keywords.

All of my seditious sentiments are expressed here rather than to friends via e-mail because I have never been inclined to become a member of any group no matter how much we have in common. I am just anti-social by nature I suppose. some of you may remember I only started this site because someone complained about including them on the group mails I was sending about my life when I lived in the USA. I decided to move to an opt-in model of communication. As far as I know no-one reads this anymore at all apart from my lovely missus and the cat (when we are out of course – the only computing skills he demonstrates when I am home is the ability to defrag the hard drives, re-install windows, install plugins for firefox and hack all the neighbour’s wifi routers)

Anyway I am not yet drunk enough to forget that my point was why should the government be forced to get a warrant to read postal mail and yet be completly free to read our e-mail?

Now at the behest of the record companies they have threatened to legislate against ‘filesharers’ and have also promised to rid the net of ‘terrorists’. The only way to do this is to force ISPs to monitor every single pice of digital information from your PC (phone, fridge, TV and anything else which may be connected in the future)to the internet attempting to spot copyright material or naughty words like AK-47, Terrorist, assasination, globalisation (or even globalization) as well as acronyms like PNAC or queries like George close to Bush and fucking monkey or kill, assasinate,death of democracy, blah, blah, blair, blah

Some people, organisations, comedians and plenty of conserned individuals have tried to highlight the rapid decline of our rights to privacy and many IT experts have testified that the ID card database & biometrics are inherently unsafe, almost certainly unworkable, and under funded by many billions. If you also consider how many government IT projects have actually worked let alone come anywhere close to the predicted budget you really should be shitting your pants rather than posting comments on the Beeb’s “have your say” which affirm that you are not a criminal and therefore have nothing to hide.

The next step beyond the rhetoric is to introduce laws which make secure communications illegal – they tried it before but theuy hadn’t managed to scare the proletariat into believing the terrosrist threat was any greater danger than crossing the road or drinking alcohol. By the government’s reasoning we should spend tens of billions of pounds protecting the populace from lightning which is far more frequent than acts of terrorism. Crossing or driving on the roads and pensioner fuel poverty are still the biggest killers in the country.

Of course if we ALL encrypt our e-mails in an unopenable digital envelope we can say what we like without offending the ruling political party and allow whistle blowers to blow whistles and political activists to be active. Do you really agree that a thought can be considered a crime? That is what our collective administrations are constantly moving towards

If you can’t be arsed to encrypt your e-mail you could at least add a signature that contains keywords which make the machines demand human intervention to determine the threat level. If every e-mail contains some sensitive words we add a huge cost to the automated surveillance. There is nothing illegal in including “assasinate the president” in e-mail signatures. Of course you will need to create your own constantly changing keywords – don’t automate, be human. Machines and spooks hate the unusual.

The Uk government have recently introduced legislation which allows a prison sentence if you refuse to give encryption passwords to law enforcers. Fuck em I say – do we want to be American gulag number two?

I think we can expect to see new attempts to make encryption illegal within the next 4-5 years. They are already preparing the groundwork. The recent noise from the mouths of our betters such as policing the internet to save us from terrorists anf filesharers are attempting to make ISPs responsible for inspecting all internet communications and fingering the evil doers. The SS (secret services not Social services) have recently expressed concern that Voice Over IP technology makes it harder for them to listen in to all our phone calls thanks to encryption an IP routing. All we are waiting for now is a high profile pedo case in which encryption is a used and a raft of new measures will suddenly appear making it illegal for us to protect our communications from the all seeing eye of the law

In this brave new world where you can be locked away indefinitely without trial for expressing an opinion and for the sake of the (fingerprinted, iris scanned and chipped) children of the future we really should all be encrypting our e-mails regardless of how trivial the content may be. We might still be able to get away with protecting your own privacy in a court of law, but if we don’t do something that protection won’t last very long.

I could attempt to write a tutorial of sorts on how to encrypt your e-mail etc.. but if you are interested you are better off learning it for yourself. The first steps are to use the following search queries on the net.

Phil zimmerman
pretty good privacy (or PGP)
public key encryption
encrypting e-mail

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