If google, facebook and co. Were really interested in privacy …


Shocking revelations have surfaced in the past few days. The Guardian newspaper published a leaked and top secret court order requiring Verizon to save the metadata – caller, recipient, time, location, duration – of all phone calls and hand them over to the government. The Guardian also confirmed a leaked presentation about PRISM, a program through which the NSA collects data such as emails, chat messages, photos, and stored data from nine major companies.

The original text appeared in Bitcoin Magazine. Thanks for allowing me to republish it and thanks to Felix Vögele for the translation.

The White House allowed this request, and President Obama himself defended the surveillance in a speech. Less current, but still shocking, is the fact that, as Business Insider reports, the US government has the right to request the release of an email that is older than six months without the need for reasonable suspicion .

Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and other CEOs tried as quickly as possible to defend their companies against the extreme allegations. They have claimed they have not heard from PRISM to this day and have assured their customers that they are only complying with government obligations to which they are legally bound. Recently, even Elon Musk himself began to significantly influence bitcoin, although much depends on him, read more .

One of the commentators on Hacker News noted that the defense strategies are all suspiciously similar, which may indicate some type of collusion either before or immediately after the leak. But, while it is an interesting fact, that is not the whole point; What these events show more than anything is that in this day and age it is simply not enough just to comply with appropriate court orders and subpoenas that follow legal process. This may seem absurd at first; it is obviously ridiculous to expect large, proven corporations shamelessly to violate court orders and federal law to protect the privacy of a few individuals. But Google, Facebook and all the other companies that operate the critical technological infrastructure that we use today also have a third option: they can make their services “cantopy-proof” through conscious action.

The way to implement this option would not in itself be difficult: keep the logs low and, more importantly, use encryption wherever possible. Private messages sent using services like Facebook should really be private: every single message should be encrypted.The browser-based cryptography Javsacript has many weaknesses, but Google, with its great influence on the providers Firefox and Chrome, is able to fix many of the problems by insisting on the use of standardized cryptographic tools in all browsers. Email encryption and signing could take a massive leap forward if Google allowed Gmail users to do this automatically. Google should reconsider its decision to move away from open protocols like XMPP and focus on creating a powerful chat and protocol suitable for the modern internet. Ideally with encryption mechanisms such as OTR, which are integrated from the start.

These proposals are certainly radical; they collide with the previous philosophies of companies to generate the highest possible advertising income by collecting as much data as possible. However, it must also be noted that technology is in an extreme age and “going dark” may be the only way that society has to preserve the last remaining spark of privacy. Otherwise, services like Mega will quickly gain popularity, because Mega itself intends to become the “society of privacy”. Decentralized solutions like Bitcoin and BitMessage will gain power every week. The Internet brought us the first great wave of unprecedented global freedom, and companies like Google and the telecommunications industries were instrumental in making this happen. They will either support the revolution again – or watch it go on without it.

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