[FoRK] [zs-p2p] [liberationtech] Thank you for choosing cyberpunk dystopia.

Shava Nerad shava23 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 10 12:07:54 PDT 2013


I have to say, this is why I am proposing we must turn to traditional
community organizing, using the net only as a means of totally transparent
communications at this point for organizing facilitations.

We have a strong history in this country of successful insurgent formal
nonviolent social movements.  And I am afraid if we do not mobilize the
consequences are in fact dystopian.

We have two generations essentially detached not only from civic activism
but largely from the social contract in general.  I feel as though society
is inviting renewal or despotism.

So, what are we looking at?  The vague shadows of a Spanish Civil War?  I
hope the hell not.  Shadows of 1930s Germany is what I hear more often,
ducking Godwin, but just reporting.

The point is that there is one piece of compassion we might have here:
while we are horrified as activists in a democracy in America regarding our
government, our government -- our friends and people we see not as friends
-- is somewhat justifiably horrified looking over our shoulders at the
electorate.

Government can not change the electorate in a democracy -- at least, not
quickly.  That really only works the other way around.

Our people do not understand their own government any more.  They have been
reality engineered into a market-of-votes.  Elections here are transmedia,
and are game theoried to death.  Party platforms are minor lore and
backstory.  Political principals that actually relate to real world
consequences have very little place in electoral politics except as they
are adopted as plot elements in the transmedia drama, which often holds no
reliance, especially, on facts.

If you have felt like every bit of this has been social engineering since
about Clinton and Gingrich started influencing their parties, I think you
would be right.  Both men are very fond of a marketing/game theory chase to
the middle.  The DLC and the Contract for America both displayed strong
ideological platforms while candidates pursued whatever it took to take the
unaffiliated vote.  So we entered the age where everyone complained that
the parties were indistinguishable.  For decades.  Until that became, in
market research, too unpopular.

Nearly instantly, our two dominant parties went, in the public perception,
from being indistinguishable, from having always been too polarized and
unable to work with one another, ever.

And, although this made approval ratings of Congress as a whole drop (at
11-17% now but they have no reason to fear consequences), it made approval
of your local congresscritters go up -- your own delegation is seen as
aggressive, fighting for you, and standing up to bad government.  Teflon.
And totally unaccountable.

We are so fucked.  This is the perfect morph of "we have always been at war
with Eurasia" in politics.

You have to be carefully taught... This is not an electorate.  It's an
arena of futbol yahoos who never had a chance to learn what it means to be
a citizen of a democracy, drunk on cheap beer and cheering for the guys
wearing the right color uniforms, and ready to brawl with the other fans if
they lose.

This is why, yes they are outraged about Prism -- they have been taught to
be outraged because in a neuromarketing sense, it retains their attention
quivering at the TV for three minutes through the next series of ads, and
they retain more information from those ads and are grateful for their
soothing effect, so it makes for greater brand affinity.  So as long as
Snowdon keeps adrenaline moving as political porn, he will get equal time
on CNN, MS-NBC, and FOX News, and as soon as he stops selling stuff, the
sleeping giant will roll over and go back to hibernation until next crisis
or the Superbowl.

Like a light switch, by manufactured consent, the spotlights will go off,
go on again perhaps as a footnote if some bad consequences happen to
Snowden after the NSA decides enough people don't care any more, then fade,
entirely, to black.

But it is possible to change things.

It takes the ones who are still learning, and that means the young, the
geeks, the intellectuals.  It takes forming a movement based on principals,
so it doesn't rely on one set of people coming up with ideas.  It must be
nonviolent and coherent with how the current system purports to work (and
often that ends up working against the system as a shaming mechanism).  I
am hoping it will be multipartisan, but I am pretty unabashedly old-line
liberal and conservative-friendly -- my attitude is that politics is RvR
gaming and beers after, and geeks are good at fighting fair in design
meetings. ;)

I want to open source politics.  It's gotten ikky, and it's getting ikkier,
but contrary to popular belief, it isn't inherent on all scales.  And it's
gotten worse rather than better due to people neglecting the institution.
Someone has to clean the loos dammit, or they get gross.  It's part of
co-operative living.  We can't get rid of politics.

If we don't open it all up, document it, get a million young people
involved in a Great Hunt to discover how we got here and how their
birthright can be recovered from the political power mongers -- we won't
have a democracy.

Besides, this is the biggest most amazing best programmed LARP there is.
There are actually some great aspects to spending your time on civilization
rather than Civilization(tm). ;)  Why spend time on bread and circuses when
you can engage the real thing?

So, this is not a "civic game" or gamification.  This is using the net as
organizing for social ends with perhaps a metaphorical idiom of gaming, the
hunt, the quest, the Hero's Journey.

Because I don't think it's an exaggeration that this is an asymmetrical
war, however nonviolent, we are entering into.  No less than King or
Mandela or Gandhi went into.  Our government is trapped in error and I see
no way except to bring the people to bail them out, and as was so in any of
those prior peaceful civil wars, we have friends inside, but years of work
ahead.

#bluerosemovement

Yrs,
SN
On Jul 10, 2013 11:43 AM, "Eugen Leitl" <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

>
> https://medium.com/surveillance-state/b804de3b5b
>
>
> in Surveillance State14 min read
>
> Thank you for choosing cyberpunk dystopia.
>
> encryption, capitalism, and law
>
> June has been a pretty surreal month. As the Guardian and the Washington
> Post
> continue to publish internal NSA documents in what has become a torrential
> TOP SECRET/NOFORN early Christmas bonanza, many of us in hacker and
> activist
> communities have now seen what we long suspected confirmed: that the
> government is indiscriminately collecting and storing massive quantities of
> data, and that the distinction between the “law enforcement” and foreign
> intelligence use of this data has become increasingly blurred. For people
> who
> have family ties in Pakistan or regularly attend Mosque,for those who were
> a
> part of Occupy Wall Street, or have participated in the blockade of the KXL
> Pipeline, the fact that the national security apparatus conducts domestic
> operations on a racial and political basis is no surprise; it has often
> been
> a daily fact of life for years.
>
> Yet, being right is obviously not reassuring, and how to turn these
> revelations into substantive change is far from clear. Unlike in 1976, when
> the Church Committee was formed to address the abuses of the Nixon era,
> there
> is now a broad spectrum of established legal precedent and business
> practices
> which make widespread surveillance both legal and profitable. The courts
> have
> consistently ruled that when we turn our data over to a third party, we
> have
> no reasonable expectation of privacy. Never mind that it is pretty much
> impossible to communicate online today without handing your information to
> a
> third party, whether that is Apple, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, or any email
> server, for that matter. At the same time, the dominant business model for
> online services has come to be based on user data exploitation and targeted
> advertisements. Companies that can’t access their users’ data because it is
> encrypted deny themselves revenue from targeted ads. Users who have become
> accustomed to not having to pay to access online services are less likely
> to
> buy into a fee-for service business model that might offer them greater
> privacy. These two aspects of the world we now find ourselves in, the legal
> architecture supporting surveillance and the profit motive driving private
> data exploitation, together compose a mutually re-enforcing bulwark
> defending
> the state’s panopticon from both passive individual resistance and
> organized
> direct attack. All of this is happening in a world where the real-time
> location tracking of millions of people has become trivial, where
> commercial
> facial recognition is becoming ubiquitous, and in which the president
> reserves the right to murder anyone, at any time, with a flying killer
> robot.
> If there are prophets of our time, they are Kafka, Alan Moore, and Phillip
> K.
> Dick.
>
> The Failed Cypherpunk Insurgency
>
> That to defy the surveillance state should be harder today than it was
> twenty
> years ago is tragically ironic, since today there are publicly available
> cryptographic tools that can effectively shield individuals’ communications
> from interception. Free software such as LUKS, GnuPG, and OTR theoretically
> allow anyone to secure their hard drive, their email, and their
> conversations
> online. For much of the 1990s, there was a fight to make these tools
> publicly
> available. Many of the most secure crypto algorithms, such as RSA, were
> patented and couldn’t be used without first paying a hefty license fee.
> Cryptography was legally considered to be a type of “munition” by the US
> government, and anyone who developed software that employed crypto risked
> being prosecuted in the US for unlawfully trafficking in ordinance. The
> cypherpunks of the 1990s were committed to spreading cryptography through
> any
> means necessary. Phil Zimmermann, who wrote PGP, the free software for
> encrypting email, successfully circumvented the legal blockade on the
> export
> of cryptography by publishing his source code as a book, “PGP Source Code
> and
> Internals.” The text was written in machine readable format, so that anyone
> who purchased a copy of the book would be able to scan in the software,
> then
> use it or distribute it themselves. Although he was charged with violating
> the ban on munitions exports, Zimmermann was able to successfully argue
> that
> his book was not software, but first amendment protected speech. The 90s
> are
> littered with similar cypherpunk battles; some hackers set off to countries
> with laws favorable to exporting cryptography, so that they could safely
> write code and share it with the world. They believed that if encryption
> was
> widely available, government surveillance would be impossible, censorship
> would become a historical relic, and untraceable digital currency would
> become ubiquitous. Without the ability to monitor citizens or collect tax
> revenue, governments would fall and the people of the world would build a
> new
> society on the ashes of the old. If this sounds grandiose or naive, that’s
> because it was.
>
> The cypherpunks believed that with cryptography, the internet could exist
> as
> a platonic space, free from the coercive influence of organized violence.
> Since no amount of force can solve a math problem, and since individuals
> online become place-less avatars of their physical selves, then
> theoretically
> a cryptographic net could become the ultimate state-proof reality. They
> failed, though, to anticipate that the hegemonic forces of organized
> capital
> would exert the same disproportionate influence over people online as in
> the
> physical world, and that these new internet capitalists would be just as
> welcoming to the coercive influence of the state as their predecessors had
> been.
>
> Today, the cypherpunk mindset lives on among technically inclined people
> who
> have fallen in love with cryptography. I know because I’m one of them. I
> think the way the Diffie-Hellman exchange appears to defy logic is utterly
> fascinating. I make one time pads for fun, I occasionally tune into
> shortwave
> number stations based out of Russia, and if you get me drunk I will explain
> public key cryptography in detail to anyone present regardless of their
> expressed level of interest in the subject. That people would freely choose
> to use cryptography and become enthralled with its mathematical simplicity
> seems natural to me. However, if I’m honest, I have to admit that I go well
> out of my way to use crypto tools on a daily basis. The online spaces most
> of
> us frequent aren’t designed to protect our data from the people who built
> them, because if they were, those same people would very quickly be out of
> business.
>
> Free Choice Isn’t Free
>
> All of us express our agency within a given set of restrictions. If I live
> in
> a neighborhood without stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, then
> my
> “choice” to eat healthy food comes with higher costs in travel time and
> money
> that I may not have. When all of my friends use cell phones to make plans
> and
> meet up, then my choice not to carry an insecure tracking device expands to
> include the choice not to spend as much time with my friends. If most all
> of
> my friends are planning parties on Facebook, then my choice not to use
> Facebook expands to include the choice not to go to most parties. These are
> choices that aren’t really free choices; they are all weighted by the
> influence of dominant players who define the shape of the terrain in which
> I
> make my choice.
>
> The terrain of online communication is similarly shaped and defined by
> hegemonic players: companies that profit off of user data exploitation and
> seek to keep users within their internally coherent fiefdoms. Once a
> company
> achieves a certain critical mass of users, it is no longer in their
> interest
> to be compatible with other platforms and technologies; since their users
> have already become dependent upon them, it is now in that company’s
> interest
> to force a choice away from their competitors, rather than offer users more
> choice. Google, for example, recently decided to stop supporting XMPP, an
> open chat protocol that allows GTalk users to chat with a wide variety of
> other platforms, including Facebook, Outlook, and free software
> applications
> such as Pidgin that support true end-to-end encryption. Since GTalk is tied
> to GMail, Hangouts, and Google+, users who are upset at losing the freedom
> of
> XMPP will have to decide if they are mad enough to forgo the benefits of
> those other Google products. Even if a user were to leave Google, in order
> for them to be able to chat with all of their friends, they would have to
> convince them all to use Jabber instead of GTalk. Their choice then, is not
> really a free choice.
>
> This effect of choices that aren’t choices applies to anyone trying to
> secure
> their online communications with cryptography as well. Since any end-to-end
> crypto tool requires that both people are using the tool to communicate, an
> individual who wants to use crypto has to convince other members of her
> social network to adopt the same tool she is using. This means that anyone
> designing a crypto tool today, no matter how easy to use, is swimming
> upstream against the closed networks of the established players.
>
> This network effect inherent to successful platform adoption means that
> secure communication is a social phenomenon as much as a technical one;
> whenever there is a large community of people using a particular
> technology,
> that network is healthy and there is an incentive for other people to join
> it. A technology with a small network faces large barriers to widespread
> use.
> Generally, we can say that successful technologies are (a) easy to use and
> (b) have large networks. It’s clear that these two qualities are mutually
> re-enforcing and together encourage widespread adoption of a platform.
> What’s
> not clear is whether an easy to use tool naturally leads to widespread
> adoption.
>
> Some cryptographers are attempting to address the user adoption friction
> caused by difficult to use software like PGP by making elegant, easy crypto
> tools that work where users already are: their phone and the browser. Moxie
> Marlinspike and Nadim Kobeissi are two of the most prominent developers
> doing
> this kind of work. Moxie founded Whisper Systems, and brought encrypted
> VoIP
> and texts to smart phones with Red Phone and Text Secure. Nadim built
> Crypto
> Cat, the first in-browser encrypted chat platform (Note: Crypto Cat has
> apparently just been hit with the discovery of another major security flaw,
> http://tobtu.com/decryptocat.php). Both have simple interfaces that are
> pleasant to use. Whether they will be widely adopted largely depends on the
> hope that good design leads to a larger user base, which by way of the
> network effect will accelerate user adoption.
>
> There is some reason to believe that this may not be the case. A software
> tool’s ease of use is not just a function of design, but interoperability
> with other existing stuff that people are already using. Red Phone and Text
> Secure are deliberately grafted into existing users’ habits by seamlessly
> replacing the default phone and texting applications in Android. However,
> because Google defines the state of play by controlling the platform on
> which
> both of these programs run, Red Phone and Text Secure function more or less
> at the mercy of Google. What happens to Red Phone if Google tries to force
> out competitors and make Hangouts, their video chat and VoIP client, the
> replacement for standard calls on Android? That might be back to the
> drawing
> board for Whisper Systems. Crypto Cat, on the other hand, runs as a Chrome
> and Firefox plugin, so while it seems unlikely that it would be swept off
> of
> either of those platforms, people still have to go out of their way to use
> Crypto Cat; people go there for secure communication, but it isn’t built
> into
> any of the increasingly closed online worlds they inhabit. Companies that
> are
> able to generate mass revenue through user data exploitation are able to
> construct a constellation of interdependent services whose convenience is
> primarily derived not from their user design in and of itself, but from the
> fact that they are part of a large, internally coherent ecosystem. This is
> the “sandbox effect” of monopolistic design. Without the ability to derive
> revenue from user data, most user friendly encryption applications are
> either
> run out of pocket like Whisper Systems and Crypto Cat, or are
> fee-for-service, like Silent Circle.
>
> User choice isn’t just restricted by the coercive effect of the rent
> seeking
> and anti-competitive behavior of hegemonic companies like Google; their
> entire business model is based on undermining privacy. No major internet
> company is interested in offering true end-to-end encryption, because this
> would mean that they would no longer have access to the user’s plaintext
> data: the lifeblood of their ad-based business model. These companies
> effectively offer what Bruce Schneier has dubbed “feudal security.” Google
> promises to keep your inbox free of competitors’ spam in exchange for
> discretely offering you some of its own. Data exploiting companies
> effectively secure their users’ against their competitors and against
> malicious exploitation, but they horde users’ plaintext data for
> themselves.
> Which, since almost all of these companies are US based and subject to US
> law
> (whatever that may happen to be these days), means that Google, Facebook,
> Skype, etc. also horde users’ data for the NSA.
>
> Cyberspace Isn’t Space: Trouble With The Law
>
> Quite obviously, when the fourth amendment was written, there was no
> internet. Personal papers were largely kept at home or at an office,and the
> protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” referred to
> trespass
> by government officials. This has created problems when the
> deterritorializing effect of technology confuses the nature of private
> space.
> However, much of this apparent confusion in the courts is fairly recent,
> and
> there is a strong historical precedent of US courts adapting to new
> technologies while upholding the intent of the fourth amendment.
>
> In a 1928 case before the Supreme Court, Olmstead v.United States, the
> defendant argued that the evidence gathered against him by a phone wiretap
> should not be admissible in court, since the government hadn’t bothered to
> obtain a warrant to do so. The federal government argued that no such
> warrant
> was necessary, since no “search or seizure” of the defendant’s home had
> taken
> place. The court ruled with the defendant, arguing that:
>
> Applying to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments the established rule of
> construction, the defendants’ objections to the evidence obtained by
> wiretapping must, in my opinion, be sustained. It is, of course, immaterial
> where the physical connection with the telephone wires leading into the
> defendants’ premises was made. And it is also immaterial that the intrusion
> was in aid of law enforcement. Experience should teach us to be most on our
> guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men
> born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by
> evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious
> encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.  The
> court went on to conclude that:
>
> By the laws of Washington, wiretapping is a crime. [n13] Pierce’s [p480]
> Code, 1921, § 8976(18). To prove its case, the Government was obliged to
> lay
> bare the crimes committed by its officers on its behalf. A federal court
> should not permit such a prosecution to continue.  You would think that
> such
> an astounding instance of common sense would equally apply to the
> protection
> of email from warrantless seizure, but you’d be wrong. In United States v.
> Miller (1976) and other similar recent cases, the court has repeatedly
> bought
> the argument that since sending an email involves “voluntarily disclosing
> information to a third party” the person sending that email therefore has
> no
> valid expectation of privacy in their communications. If there were no
> precedent analogous to email upon which to base their decision, it might
> make
> sense that the court was just confused, but that’s not the case. As far
> back
> as 1876, in Ex parte Jackson - 96 U.S. 727, the government has previously
> argued that the fourth amendment does not protect against the interception
> of
> mail, since the sender has entrusted it to a third party, the US Postal
> Service. The court rejected that line of argument, declaring that:
>
> Letters and sealed packages of this kind in the mail are as fully guarded
> from examination and inspection, except as to their outward form and
> weight,
> as if they were retained by the parties forwarding them in their own
> domiciles. The constitutional guaranty of the right of the people to be
> secure in their papers against unreasonable searches and seizures extends
> to
> their papers, thus closed against inspection, wherever they may be. Whilst
> in
> the mail, they can only be opened and examined under like warrant, issued
> upon similar oath or affirmation, particularly describing the thing to be
> seized, as is required when papers are subjected to search in one’s own
> household.  Unfortunately, the effect of recent decisions in line with
> United
> States v. Miller, which perpetuate the notion that privacy is obviated if a
> third party is involved, has not just undermined our online privacy, it has
> also produced a myriad of insidious structural changes in how the judicial
> review of executive power operates, often in ways which are not immediately
> apparent.
>
> One of the virtues of the post-feudal common law legal tradition is the
> principle of equality before the law. Individuals are all theoretically
> subjected to the same set of laws via the same legal process, whether they
> are a part of the state power structure, are wealthy “private” parties, or
> are ordinary persons. Of course, people with more access to societal
> privilege or with connections to people of influence almost always fair far
> better than those who don’t have such access, but this sort of corruption
> of
> the judicial process is quite different from its structural abrogation,
> which
> is what we are seeing now between the state and internet companies, a
> relationship which has come to resemble more a series of feudal fiefdoms
> negotiating their position with a ruling state than it does the functioning
> of a healthy judicial system in a democratic society.
>
> In the physical world, if the government wants to search my house, then
> they
> (theoretically) get a warrant to do so. I would have the opportunity to
> fight
> over the legitimacy of that warrant in court. Today, my data is stored
> with a
> few very large companies, and so the government instead goes straight to
> them, via an administrative subpoena or similar rubber-stamp instrument to
> get my data. While a warrant to search my house might be issued on an ex
> parte basis, meaning that I am not notified of the warrant hearing and do
> not
> have the opportunity to object beforehand, I would nonetheless be able to
> argue that the warrant was issued illegitimately afterwards, and get any
> evidence associated with the improper warrant tossed out of court as well.
> This isn’t the case with National Security Letters, which are served to
> ISPs
> and internet companies and include a gag order, effectively banning the
> company that receives them from ever notifying the customer being targeted
> that they have received such an order. ISPs and companies like Google and
> Twitter which receive these orders can fight them in court, but unlike the
> actual defendants, they lack a strong incentive to do so; resisting these
> types of requests is a civic service that private companies have little
> reason to pursue. Beyond maintaining their reputation with their customers,
> Google or Facebook have a weak incentive to spend thousands of dollars in
> legal fees just to stick up for any individual user.
>
> As a result of the courts’ ongoing habit of upholding the notion that we
> somehow forfeit our expectation of privacy when storing information with a
> third party, the conversation in the court system has contracted from a
> very
> broad based series of diffuse opinions written in many courts by judges
> hearing objections from many defendants’ attorneys to a very narrowly based
> series of secret conflicts between large internet companies and the
> government, most often before the secret and unaccountable FISA court.
> Effectively this has bypassed any thoroughgoing legal examination of the
> legitimacy of the government’s broad surveillance practices by transforming
> common law judicial review into a series negotiations between internet
> companies and the government over how much information they are willing to
> share about their users. This isn’t equality before the law, since
> individuals are powerless to question the legitimacy of the surveillance
> directed at them. Instead, the companies that “own” the data choose whether
> they want to resist government requests at their own expense.
>
> All of this is to say that the situation we now find ourselves in is quite
> complex; a series of interdependent and mutually re-enforcing edifices
> which
> support mass state surveillance have metastasized over the past decade: in
> the legal sphere, through the ad-based services we use, and due to a
> deficit
> of viable, easy to use online tools that incorporate true end-to-end
> crypto.
> Without a business model that can support end-to-end crypto and a robust
> court challenge to the current widespread (mis)interpretation of the fourth
> amendment by the judiciary, the future looks very bleak. Think Blade Runner
> meets Minority Report.
>
> Please Note: This piece is highly indebted to the ideas of Moxie
> Marlinspike,
> Jacob Appelbaum, and to a lesser extent Bruce Schneier. The stuff on the
> history of the cypherpunk movement in particular, and the bit on the false
> nature of liberal choice theory is ripped almost directly from a talk Moxie
> gave at Defcon 18. Hopefully people who haven’t come across these ideas
> elsewhere will feel curious to look those fine people up on the interwebs.
> --
> Too many emails? Unsubscribe, change to digest, or change password by
> emailing moderator at companys at stanford.edu or changing your settings at
> https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/liberationtech
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