Everywhere I look at the moment, I see the consequences of the extent of NSA/GCHQ surveillance. (See here, here and here for examples.)
But this post from Pamela Jones, founder of one of the best and most enlightening sites on the Web, makes me really depressed because it demonstrates the damage that surveillance is doing to the public sphere. Here’s what she says:
The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.
What to do?
What to do? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it’s good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this.
Years ago, when I was first on my own, I arrived in New York City, and being naive about the ways of evil doers in big cities, I rented a cheap apartment on the top floor of a six-floor walkup, in the back of the building. That of course, as all seasoned New Yorkers could have told me, meant that a burglar could climb the fire escape or get to the roof by going to the top floor via the stairs inside and then through the door to the roof and climb down to the open window of my apartment.
That is exactly what happened. I wasn’t there when it happened, so I wasn’t hurt in any way physically. And I didn’t then own much of any worth, so only a few things were taken. But everything had been pawed through and thrown about. I can’t tell how deeply disturbing it is to know that someone, some stranger, has gone through and touched all your underwear, looked at all your photographs of your family, and taken some small piece of jewelry that’s been in your family for generations.
If it’s ever happened to you, you know I couldn’t live there any more, not one night more. It turned out, by the way, according to my neighbors, that it was almost certainly the janitor’s son, which stunned me at the time but didn’t seem to surprise any of my more-seasoned neighbors. The police just told me not to expect to get anything back. I felt assaulted. The underwear was perfectly normal underwear. Nothing kinky or shameful, but it was the idea of them being touched by someone I didn’t know or want touching them. I threw them away, unused ever again.
I feel like that now, knowing that persons I don’t know can paw through all my thoughts and hopes and plans in my emails with you.
They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it’s encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge. Groklaw has readers all over the world.
I understand perfectly how she feels. We used to think that spammers and trolls were the main vandals in Cyberspace — polluting the public sphere with their noxious activities and their contempt for the public good. Now it turns out that they’ve been joined by governments and their agencies.