I’m sitting in front of my computer and usually, I would have churned out three to six paragraphs to publish, but the joy of writing was taken away from a lot of us in 2013 (more about that later). For me, writing now requires so much edit, thinking, rethinking, rephrasing, and ultimately over-thinking because I am afraid that every thing I say, will be stored, saved, and used against me in the future at the government’s will. As an individual, my privacy has been yanked from me that I feel as if I am under trial and guilty until data about me (those I knew I was putting out, those I consented to share, those I didn’t know or consent to share) have proved me innocent.
There used to be something pure and simple about writing in a blog. The little jokes, the continuity from experiences in past blogs, the insight and different takes people got from your random ramblings about your country and life in general, it was sacred. Then came the Snowden revelations and life as we knew it became governed by self censorship. Today, I am mad: mad that my government is too stupid to attempt to protect me from the bully that is America, and mad that they have armed themselves to spy on me because ‘even America is spying on its citizens’.
My level of anger is threefold: that America (and the 5 eyes) can gather data about everyone and anyone (especially me) to use it for security but also for economic advantage with little or no oversight. The issue I have with this is that I am not a citizen of these countries but their sweeping dragnet surveillance covers my private communication and there is little I can do about it.
My second level of anger is at the Nigerian government (and to a certain extent the world leaders) for making barely a whimper at the extent of surveillance. Maybe they knew before the leaks but I had assumed (wrongly it turned out) that when the spying stopped being about security and increasingly became economic (including spying on the G20 summit and the private communication of other world leaders), it would lead to an open debate to curtail the absurd power we have left unchecked in the hands of a few. Sadly, that never happened…
My last level of anger is at the fact that the Nigerian government thinks they too should get into the action of spying on citizen’s clearly against S.37 of the constitution and nobody is talking about it. As this Guardian article points out, The road to surveillance is paved with good intentions…and warnings. If you think I am overreacting, read this Privacy International report to see all the intimate access to our lives that the Nigerian government is purchasing.
But here is a message to all my UK, German, Russian. French, American we-are-not-at-war-but-we-will-spy-on-you friends; stop being pussies and curb the virus that is your secret service before it destroys us all. The people you have voted are stepping all over my rights and only you can do something about it: it is either you yank their chain and put a restraining leash on them or you step up and vote proper privacy advocates into power.
And to my Nigerian comrades and the rest of the world, sitting quietly and saying “they are already spying on us” is not an option. In case you are one of those who believe that they have ‘Nothing To Hide’, here are a few comments from a forum
- If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.
- Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.
- You might not have nothing to hide now, but in the future you might. The government changes and one day you might not like the change. By then it may be too late. Suppose they raise taxes to 90%. What can you do? Protest? Suppose they declare protesting to be a terrorist act? You might argue they cannot do that due to the constitution, but terrorists are not protected by the constitution.
- Because you might do something wrong with my information.
But perhaps the best reaction to the nothing to hide commentary was by Tactical Tech who covered it thus:
“Why shouldn’t I be public about what I do – I’m not doing anything wrong!” But as they have pointed out repeatedly, “nothing to hide” is not the same as “everything for show”.
Sometimes you might like to keep some pieces of information private even though there is nothing bad, wrong, shameful or illegal about them. Here are a couple of examples: your BDSM collection is not illegal but it is not necessarily information you want to share with the world. The fact that you have peanut allergies is not illegal, but you don’t necessarily want to share that information with the world. So also your HIV status, your spending habits, or the location of your mistress’s house. Just as it’s your choice to share, it should be your choice to be private.
Sometimes, we choose to take the risk because we think the chances of something going wrong are too low for us to change our behavior. This is no longer true as demonstrated in places like Syria. Western companies have sold mass Web and e-mail surveillance technology to Libya and Syria, and in Egypt, activists found specialized software that allowed the government to listen in to Skype conversations. In Bahrain, meanwhile, technology sold by Nokia Siemens allowed the government to monitor cell-phone conversations and text messages. The use of data is endless as the Nigerian government has reportedly started using data to affect election results by delaying voting materials to opposition strongholds so voters can be frustrated…
ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST
The people at Guardian Project, EFF, GnuPG, and a host of others are doing their best to make surveillance difficult and ensure that you can remain fairly private when using the internet. Sometimes, it is as simple as reading the terms and conditions; or deciding to use Linux instead of MAC-OS/WINDOWS; using ToR, Firefox, Chromium with security add ons instead of Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari; riseup instead of gmail; duckduckgo and startpage instead of google, bing; a rooted android over an iphone, blackberry; and a host of other simple security decisions you can find at Security In A Box. We can chose to take this lying down, or we can chose to fight back because there are ALTERNATIVES out there.
I have realized that corporations and governments do not have to know everything I do in the name of security and it is my job make it hard for them if they try. You too can do the same with a few simple tools and tactics starting right now…