This note was inspired by three videos I've recently watched. One made by Kurzgesagt (Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance) and two made by CGP Grey (Should all locks have keys? Phones, Castles, Encryption, and You. and Footnote *: I, Phone). If you haven't subscribed to these channels yet – do it now, seriously.

There was one day in 2001 when on the First Channel during the evening children's block an episode of Tabaluga was aired. It was the 11th September to be more precise. I was 4 years old and quickly after the cartoon the most important news that day was shown. When I was 6 years old the Coalition (made of US, UK, Australia, Spain and Polandball) invaded Iraq. I remember this war quite well – from TV footage, of course. However, I previously thought that war in Afghanistan happened after the Iraqi one – well, child's memory doesn't focus on international politics. For the excuse – I can easily recall my memories from the terrorist attack in London in 2005 – but still, only the TV flash-outs, because I've never been to London (yet).

Back then I didn't know about the Patriot act, the NSA or the European counter-terrorist law. I only hoped that authorities would do something to prevent terrorism. And what authorities have done is way more horrifying than every event I wrote before.

A legend about reasonable surveillance

Once upon a time there was a reasonable sovereign. He was afraid of his people, but wanted to give them safety and assurance. Well, he provided reasonable police forces, as well as military service to protect the territory people. He also had a spy agency to invigilate his nation seek terrorists. Furthermore, ISPs and major online service providers (think email, contacts, calendar) were obliged to share their data with this agency - to protect people, of course. There was only one problem – some people encrypted their servers and devices. That terrified the sovereign. "They must be terrorists" – he said — "Otherwise, why would they protect their privacy? It's very unhelpful for our surveill… protection facilities. We must ban encryption."

Sounds horrifying, huh? Because this is what is going on right now in many countries.

What are you talking about?

You have probably about the Apple case which happened quite recently. In a nutshell, FBI killed a terrorist and got his iPhone. Unfortunately, the phone was encrypted. And after entering the wrong code too many times in a row it might have deleted all the data inside. Quite harsh, isn't it? Well, they've asked Apple to make a master key for all their phones, in case of it will be needed to, I don't know, ensure the safety of the public. Apple refused, because they didn't want to threaten the privacy of their customers, they even made a statement published on their website (http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/). Politburos Politicians were pissed off, as well as other dictators democratically elected officials. They argued that Apple is putting lives in danger, etc. However, Apple helped the officials as hard as they could (e.g. they gave them access to the terrorist's iCloud backup and so on) and FBI gained access to the phone anyway, somehow (and haven't told anybody how they did that). Apple actually asked the office if they could tell them how had they FBI done this, but cheeky intelligence wankers refused to answer.

This is only one of the cases in which governments want to interact with our private data. The other is, e.g. Prism case, revealed by Edward Snowden.

But why is that so important?

How do the people carry things? In most cases they use their bare hands. Hands are very helpful, you can't do and carry almost anything without them. However, people use some kind of bags, backpacks etc. as well, don't they? It is a shame when somebody destroys or steals someone's bag.

How do the people use the information? In most cases they use their mind. Mind is very helpful, you can't comprehend almost anything without it. However, people use some kind of writing, artificial memory and the internet as well, don't they? It is a shame when somebody is able to read your artificial memory.

We live in the future. We don't have chips installed into our brains, because we don't need them. Operations are expensive, dangerous, unpleasant and even a little bit creepy. It's better to simply buy a phone in a mobile carrier. Thanks to this little phone (not always, but I dunno how anybody can carry it) we have the access to the whole knowledge of the mankind. This little phone is also an extension of our memory – photos, location, notes, et cetera. Would you like to give strangers the access to your memory, your mind? If not, do you want to give strangers the access to your second, artificial memory, artificial mind? This is how important the digital privacy is.

CGP Grey made a great point about letting one law to violate the privacy – it never stops. One law today is the base of another law, which is going to violate the privacy even more.

But the government wants our safety, it wouldn't request that without reason.

It requests everything without ANY FUCKING REASON WHATSOEVER.

Let's go back to the Apple case. What FBI did is that they actually LIED to the public that they need backdoor access to every single iPhone on Earth, even though they were able to hack the phone. If so, why would we trust them anyway? The effectiveness of so gennante war on terror is also questionable in its result, but that's a story for another time.

The clue is that the government is not authorized to spy on people, to break their privacy if there is no conjecture of the crime. Mass surveillance is against the basic human rights, it's against basic human dignity. It's like having a CCTV camera in a toilet cabin. People might use drugs there, people might actually do a lot of bad, forbidden things in there, but you are not allowed to install a CCTV camera there.

Mass surveillance gives the governments a powerful weapon, which is not used against terrorism, but it's used against free speech, against freedom.

So what should I do to protect myself from surveillance?

I'm not an expert, but I can recommend you some actions:

  1. Move your email and cloud… somewhere. Just don't use the most popular services. Look for some businesses which provide encryption, like mailbox.org, ProtonMail etc.
  2. Use Tor, proxy or VPN to be sure that you're not traceable. VPN might be also helpful if the government wants to pass a law which allows them to make censorship great again, like in Poland (and polish law covers my ISP, so I'm pissed).
  3. I'm not going to tell you to delete your Facebook account, but install an ad blocker (like uBlock Origin) with privacy and social networking blocklists. They won't be able to track you all over the Internet.
  4. Be careful. This is the best what you can do.

Thanks for reading.

Background photo made by Keith Chan and published on unsplash.com. Thanks!