Internet is not dead, you are just tired

23 août 2013 , , , 4 commentaires
I wrote yesterday a French post in response to bloggers and hacktivists who are claiming that Internet is dead because no one can be sure to exchange information or email online without being spied on by the NSA, the FBI, the GHCQ or whoever… The vast majority of them are English spoken people. One of them, Okhin, a friend, wrote an answer to my post in English, Internet is like punks, not dead yet. For the sake of debate (this is what Internet isn’t it?), I publish the English translation of my original post. I am not Shakespeare, so be lenient with my language.

There have been some chilling effects after Edward Snowden’s’revelations on Internet massive surveillance : Groklaw, a website that discuss the law as it applies to technology, has closed, Lavabit, a secure email provider, has closed, Silent Circle, another secured email provider, has suspended its service.As a consequence, many hactivists are now saying that Internet is dead. It makes me feel angry, it is stupid, it is  cowardly.

In july 2012, I attended to a Richard Stallmann conference about « Free Software And Human Rights ». There has been a lightning talk session after the conference. Fabrice Epelboin, a french journalist and activist, started the session. During 15 minutes he made a speech explaining that Internet was under massive surveillance, which was quite visionnary at that time. In conclusionhe explained that there was absolutely  no way to avoid this surveillance. Only some happy few, geeks and security experts, were able to evade this surveillance. For the others, including journalists, it was already too late.

15 minutes later, I started my lightning session. I replied to Fabrice and I did the same answer I want to tell to all of those who think today, after Snowden’s revelation, that Internet is dead, Internet is over, because some Intelligence Agencies are able to

explaining that Internet is widely monitored and that there is nothing we can do, it pisses me off, it’s stupid and it’s cowardly. We can do a lot. We must do a lot. We can’t throw up our hands. Internet is not dead. Some Intelligence Agencies and a few billion dollars won’t certainly not kill him.

Be a geek

You can still protect your communications and your data over the Internet even if you are not a computer expert. If Greenwald, a simple journalist, has been able to exchange confidential informations with a security expert such as Snowden, some other guy, whether they are journalists or not, can do it. It’s a matter of willing and time. There have been for years now many tutorials online on digital security. You can attend to crypto parties, events set up by volunteers where everybody can learn how to use efficiently cryptography. Some volunteers are maintaining anonymizing networks such as Tor and you can use those for free (but if you can donate, that will help them a lot). I claim that it is still possible to exchange in a confidential way on the Internet. If someone shows me otherwise, I’ll continue to try to find a way to protect my privacy online, not because I am a dangerous terrorist but because privacy is an essential part of democracy. The day I will stop to try to find a way, the day we all will stop to try to find a way, Internet will be dead. For real. But that won’t be the biggest problem, because this day will also be the end of our democracy. Have a look at The Origins of Totalitarianism, a book by Hannah Arendt.

Be a citizen

Those of say Internet is dead tend to consider the State as a separate entity they don’t belong to. This is a major mistake. in our democratic society, the Government and the elected are the representatives of the people. We are the people. There is better to do than claiming that Internet is dead. Get in touch with your elected representatives and hold them to account. there is a lot to be done if you are a US citizen. French citizen ? Don’t worry, there also some work to be done. Some member of the Parliament want to pass a bill involving Internet surveillance ? Get in touch with them. Ask them for an appointment, even on the phoe. Explain. Discuss. Convince. But don’t stay out of the democratic game. This democracy you’ve been defending so many times, explaining how to use VPN or cryptographic tools, use it and act a a citizen.Politics is not as cool as datalove but it’s much more efficient.

Here are a few pratical ideas you can use to stop giving up. As grandpa Stallman said in july 2013 about the Prism scandal :

If you want to have the possibility of some privacy someday, you’d better join the fight now, because now a bunch of other people are joining the fight. Now is the moment when you can make a difference.


Si ce billet vous a plu ou si vous voulez apporter des précisions, ou si vous n’êtes pas d’accord avec ce que je raconte, c’est ici qu’il faut vous manifester. Je me réserve toutefois le droit de supprimer toute contribution insultante ou qui n’aurait rien à voir avec la choucroute.

  1. There’s nothing visionary about talking about mass surveillance in 2012, we’ve been investigating the topic since 2009 with, I’ve been teaching this at Sciences Po. Paris for several years.

    As for crypto being the answer, let me be (again) visionary: FAIL.

    Ever heard about parallel computing? Well, we’re funding some massive tax dollars (Euros, in fact) to build computers who can decypher all your encrypted stuff on the fly. Those computers can decypher an https flux and re-encrypt it on the fly. Pretty neat. And no, that ain’t no vision, just journalism done with a bunch of hackers. You probably won’t see this in the press, but then again, you had to wait for Prism to arrive to read what was available on since early 2011…

    Of course, let’s not even talk about quantic computing. I don’t have any evidence of its existence, so I’m not gonna go visionary on this 😉

    So, if you want some privacy, there’s still a way, but it’s pretty complex, and you have to understand the inner working of the internets. That’s what I mean by ‘it’s only for a small geek elite (e.g. hackers)’. My mother is never gonna get this.

    Beside, I don’t remember saying that the internet is dead, it does sound pretty stupid, I agree with that.

    What’s dead is democracy. It’s a whole different thing.

    There again, crypto isn’t really the answer. If people start using crypto on a massive scale, those parallel computers will surely be unable to decypher all the trafic, but we’ll end up living in crypto anarchy, and that’s a whole different story. Could be cool, might be better than the Orwellian world currently under construction, but still, this ain’t democracy.

  2. Thanks for your reply Fabrice. I still disagree with you regarding the technical solutions. Cryptographic tools are not the ideal answer and yes, many of them can be broken using huge computing power such as parallel computing. But still, cryptography can buy you time. No data is nowadays safe for ever but it can be safe for a week, a month, a day… and sometimes this all you need to get a story out.
    I also disagree with you about the death of the democracy. Sure democracy is not in perfect shape but it’s not dead either. It’s our responsibility as citizens to bring it to life.
    It may be naive, but let’s hope I am not totally wrong about that.

    • I’m sure the coming war is going to prove you’re right about democracy. Or not.

      BTW, when I wrote ‘decyphering in real time’, that’s not ‘a week’ or ‘a month’, that’s real time. If you’re under heavy scrutiny (like, you’re a journalist working on a sensitive topic), then real time means real time. If you’re not, then it can indeed buy you some time, but I was addressing journalist in my speech, and by journalist, I mean investigative journalist… therefore…

      As for the death of democracy, even if you consider our system to be democratic, on the other side, when it comes to citizens, pushing for mass crypto is definitely pushing for crypto anarchy. I’d love to hear how this is going to end in anything democracy related.

    • Hum… So… Encryption? Let’s all be geek and stuff and save democracy?

      Think again. Or stop being so naïve and start listening to those who have been telling all this to the world for the past three years.

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