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..

The web of (dis)trust is growing.

The growth of the number of new OpenPGP keys seen on has been very steady, until a few months ago. The increase is fairly dramatic as people are beginning to see the need to secure their communications. Tie this in with the last few months of (in)security news and it appears that people are getting the message that they need to actively use the tools available to to them, if they wish to keep at least a few tidbits of private information from prying eyes.

key chart
key bar chart

Today is Dark Day is dark until 11:00pm to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills. Please, write and call your congressional and senate representatives to urge them to discard these bills.

Attending DebConf11 Remotely

I was unable to make the trip to DebConf11 in Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina, this year, but I will be attending remotely as much as possible. I will update this post throughout the conference with the links to the resources I am using, as well as other notes of interest. I hope that others find this useful.

The Banja Luka timezone is UTC +0200. For me, this is a 7 hour difference from my local time (UTC -0500), so I’ll be spending the next few days attempting to adjust my sleep schedule to try to hit some early talks during the conference 🙂 The local Banja Luka time is listed on the auto-refreshing What’s up! talk schedule page.

What’s up!
Full DebConf11 Talk Schedule on Penta

The DebConf Video Team provides real-time talk feeds that makes remote DebConf attendance possible. Without their amazing work, people that cannot make it to the conference would simply not be able to get much of what the DebConf experience provides. The videos are also archived by the team for viewing after the conference.

Video Feeds: – mash-up of video feeds, schedule, etc. – main conference room direct feed – secondary conference room direct feed
Video Archives:

IRC is probably one of the best ways to supplement Debconf talks and provides a way to remotely ask questions during Q&A – someone in the talk audience will usually pick up questions from the room channels and ask on your behalf. The DebConf11 talk room IRC channels are #debconf-auditorium and #debconf-roundroom.

The general DebConf IRC channel is #debconf – there is typically some conference talk discussion here, as well as a helpful schedule announcement bot, DCschedule, but much of the discussion on #debconf will revolve around casual conversation, the search for people, power adapters, games of Mao, and the best local food and pubs 😉

server: irc://
channels: #debconf – #debconf-auditorium – #debconf-roundroom

The DebConf mailing lists may also provide some interesting conversations that can help the remote attendance experience. The debconf-announce list is very low traffic and debconf-discuss will be where most conversations will take place.

Mailing Lists:
DebConf Mailing Lists (subscribe, etc.)
debconf-announce Archives
debconf-discuss Archives

Other Links:
DebConf group