In the waning days of Babylon and empire, what will the US government think up next? According to numerous leaks from the intelligence bureaucracy to the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal, the government’s new fun toy is the ability to monitor our social networks by tracking, in real time, the patterns of email, phone calls, text messages, and financial transactions. This program is top secret, so you can’t take legal action because you can’t prove the program exists (according to the catch-22 logic of a February 19th US Supreme Court decision).
The Clinton and Bush administrations have said the program is entirely constitutional because it does not involve eavesdropping on the content of our communication. Instead, it focuses on the pattern of our relationships. In this way, individuals are not under surveillance, all of society is. If your social movement has nothing to hide, then what are you worried about? Plenty. This kind of map of our social networks creates a ready made blueprint for disrupting any social movement deemed to be a threat. In many ways, the government knows more about how we organize than we do. This issue is important to all organizers, because much of the world’s email is routed through the US.
So, what can we do about it? For starters, get everyone you know to start using an email provider that uses StartTLS. For email, this is the only thing that can protect against the surveillance of our social networks. For a list of StartTLS providers besides riseup see:
What about phone calls, internet chat, and social networking sites? Riseup birds don’t have all the answers, but we are working on it. One thing we know, privacy and security are not solved by personal solutions. If we want security, it will take a collective response and a collective commitment to building alternative communication infrastructure.
For more information, see:
http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB120511973377523845.html “NSA’s Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data” by Siobhan Gorman. The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2008.
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/05/29/060529ta_talk_hersh “Listening In” by Seymour Hersh. The New Yorker, May 29, 2006.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm “NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls” by Leslie Cauley. USA Today, May 10, 2006.
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jyusZ2V1ACKGV2iJuGVmuPUERi_QD8UTICG00 “Court Rejects ACLU Challenge to Wiretaps.” Associated Press, February 19, 2008.
Last month we asked people to send in stories about their organizing and Riseup. Your stories gave us big smiles, and here is one of them from Stafe:
Four years ago I created a mailing list for the inhabitants of Bon Pastor district in peripheral Barcelona; a neighborhood violently struck by real estate price increases to the point that the 784 single-story single family houses built in 1929 are being torn down by the City Council, and inhabitants are forced to move to modern buildings.
A group of old, mostly retired factory workers with low incomes, poor education, and a strong sense of justice organized the seed of resistance. They didn’t have the means to respond to the assault that the “progressive” City Council were moving on their houses, way of life, and historical memory.
Four years later we have a small group of activists supporting the struggle of the inhabitants of the district. All the city knows there is a problem in that part of town. Though mainstream media is stronger than us, we used indymedia, riseup and noblogs to build counter information. We couldn’t stop the demolition of the first 145 houses, but we are still fighting though we have faced police violence and threats. The battle for the next 600 houses will be hard, but we are not afraid.
The image of retired old workers getting on the internet and subscribing to a riseup mailing list is amazing. In our own way, we are fighting against real estate owners and the digital divide!
If you have your own Riseup story, please send it to email@example.com. Thanks!
Lately we’ve had some people asking if we have contacted them about giving us their passwords. No! Never! Riseup will never ask you for your password. If you get an email that claims to be from Riseup and asks for your password, it is someone trying to scam you. Do not ever give us your password. Never reply to an email requesting personal information. Avoid clicking on links in emails. It is easy for phishers to spoof website addresses. If you have any questions regarding the validity of an email sent to you, contact the organization that it purports to be from via their support system or web page to confirm it is really them before you provide any information.
Do you dream in CSS? Riseup will soon be adding a new webmail program and we need a sweet CSS theme! If you have the skills and the time, give us a ring: firstname.lastname@example.org.
After months, nay, years of labor, the riseup birds have received federal tax-exempt status under section 501c3 for Riseup Labs, http://riseuplabs.org. Riseup Labs develops free software to support social justice. As a stroke of fun, the letter granting us tax-exempt status arrived in our mailbox on April 1st, but it’s no joke! What this means for you is that your donation to Riseup Labs is now tax-deductible. If you have a pile of cash sitting in the corner that you have wanted to give to Riseup, but you were waiting for a tax-write-off, now is the time! (please note: tax deductible information is only for US tax payers)
If a tax deduction is not important to you, please consider continuing to support the work of Riseup Networks. For more ways to help sustain Riseup, please go to: