Mass Surveillance: The Day We Fight Back

Well it’s been roughly eight months since the first major leaks about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program began to appear, and at last a coordinated global protest is imminent.

Scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 11, The Day We Fight Back involves thousands of participating websites as well as protests, speaking events, street theater performances, cryptoparties and other activities, all in the name of protesting mass surveillance.

Considerable excitement has been evident on The Guardian, Foss Force and the Electronic Frontier Foundation blogs, among many others. Down at the Linux blogosphere’s tequila-fueled Broken Windows Lounge, the anticipation has been palpable.

‘This Needs to be Stopped’

Linux Girl

“I’m happy to see a gathering of support for an event like this,” Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone told Linux Girl.

“Recently seen behaviors by the United States government hugely overstep and are in direct violation of our Constitutional rights. It’s plainly apparent that the government isn’t going to police itself, so unless the population of this country (and others) is made aware of what’s being done and how, it will continue to denigrate until we have video surveillance in our homes (if we don’t already),” he maintained.

“This needs to be stopped, and it needs to be stopped now,” Stone added. “You can be sure that all of my sites will be participating, and I hope that the entire Internet is blacked out.”

Indeed, “ordinary people are ‘the people,’ and we have rights,” asserted Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “Spying on us all, either by the NSA or any other so-called intelligence agency, is not justifiable. They didn’t prevent the WTC attack, so it looks both unnecessarily invasive and useless.”

‘This Is the Least We Can Do’

And again: “Kind of shocked this didn’t happen sooner, since politicians tend not to listen to the average person until their job seems threatened,” offered consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

“I’ve ranted a few times on the evils of government espionage on the citizens of the world,” blogger Robert Pogson agreed. “It’s high time we citizens demanded a change for the better.”

Pogson has added a “Day We FIght Back” banner to his website, but “this is the least we can do,” he told Linux Girl.

“We should all pester our elected representatives to let them know their election depends on them standing up for our rights,” he urged.

“Many governments around the world have been complicit in this espionage,” Pogson pointed out. “They all need a wake-up call. If prompt action is not taken, we should change our representatives to people who will represent us properly.”

‘More Like the Day We Whine’

On the other hand: “That’s not much of a ‘fight,’ is it?” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza began. “It’s more like the day we whine in protest.”

The fact is, “we’ve been funding our own demise all along,” Espinoza said.

“Moving your business, website and self out of the country so that you no longer pay taxes into the American war machine, of which the war on personal freedom is only a tiny piece — that would be doing something,” he opined.

“When America does something evil, I like to say, ‘we’re still looking for those droids,'” Espinoza said. “I love my country, but I learned to fear my government as a child, and we all know how well governments work under those conditions.”

‘Not Being Evil Is Hard’

“Search engines and online services have been complying with illegal orders,” Espinoza continued. “I don’t want to go to jail either, but the people who are in a position to do something about online surveillance are at those companies. They have a choice whether to act honorably and risk incarceration, or act as traitors and sell us up the river to those who would milk us for USD and discard us when empty.

“They put themselves in that situation, and now they want to make excuses about laws and national security letters,” he concluded. “But they can either do good, or they can do evil, and so far they’ve chosen the latter path. As it turns out, not being evil is hard.”

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took an even stronger view.

“If you believe you can ‘fight back’ against a fascist org with unlimited funds with an online protest? I have a bridge you might be interested in — it’s right over by the free speech zone,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

‘Wait for the Collapse’

If you wonder “why things never get any better, why no matter which ‘side’ you vote for, more fascist policies are enacted — why these protests like Occupy end up being a waste,” he said, “it’s really simple: There are no sides. The country is run by non-elected groups, NSA, pentagon and especially Wall Street lobbyists, which is why they can treat Wall Street like it’s Las Vegas.

“You can call your ‘elected officials’ all you want — heck fire ’em if it’ll make you feel better,” hairyfeet went on. “They’ll be replaced by yet another shill, bought and paid for, who will do what the corporate masters tell them to.”

At the end of the day, “all you can do is grab as much as you can and wait for the collapse, which IS coming — Wall Street has been blowing a bubble since Ronnie Reagan gave them billions in 401Ks and 403Bs to play with,” he concluded.

To wit: “When the ’29 crash hit we had 125 percent of the GDP in the market,” hairyfeet pointed out. “Now? 450 percent and rising. We nearly had it burst in ’07 and it cost trillions to shore up; the next one WILL burst.”

When it does, “you won’t have to worry about the NSA because we’ll be bankrupt, your money will be worth the same as Zimbabwe’s,” he added. “But you can wave little flags and call anybody you want — this kind of backroom dirty dealing is billion-dollar business.”

‘Little Effect’

Last but not least,”there’s a tendency to put too much faith in protest events and not enough in slow, long-term action,” suggested Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

It is rare for protests to change the world “unless they are repeated in person, in ways that ensure that people are heard in the flesh,” Travers pointed out. “An international day of action will blow over with unfortunately little effect.

“Agencies and bureaucracies, as well as even institutions like Congress, take time to change,” he explained. “Slow pressure over a long period has a lot more force than a brief but strong effort.”

On another level, however, “I think the NSA has already lost,” Travers asserted. “We can’t go back to not knowing what they are up to, so the world that companies navigate today is very different from the world they navigated pre-Snowden.

“The same goes for individuals but to a lesser extent, since many don’t seem to care that much,” he added.

‘We Must Be Ready’

The most constructive course of action is to “move on and get ready, not to keep fighting this battle but for the next one,” Travers suggested.

“This battle will be won simply by no longer trusting companies’ security and confidentiality unless they can largely prove that they are not complicit in the spying,” he said. “That is the slow pressure over time that will end these abuses.

“If we see the development and widespread use of encryption approaches designed to thwart the NSA, then the crypto wars will move back out of the shadows,” Travers concluded. “We will see greater calls for crypto controls and government back doors from the law enforcement and intelligence community because their legitimate interests will be harmed by the reaction to the NSA abuses. That’s the battle that will decide all this, and we must be ready for it.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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