The Battle for Power on the Internet

Recently, Bruce Schneier was interviewed by Technology Review on the NSA and the Snowden documents. The last question in the interview is brilliant. I have difficulty trying to explain to non-geeks that there are ways to maintain privacy, but since the methods require knowledge that typical Internet users don’t possess, online privacy is out of reach. The learning curve is too steep. Bruce nails it:

So you’ve recently suggested five tips for how people can make it much harder, if not impossible, to get snooped on. These include using various encryption technologies and location-obscuring methods. Is that the solution?

My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.

Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.

The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.

Today, Bruce posted a link to his TEDxCambridge talk from last week and further explains the above idea, how the Internet has evolved to the current state, and what sorts of things will need to happen over the next decades to preserve its usefulness for humanity. If you use the Internet, this is 12 minutes of must see insight..