Originally published in The Bat Country Word
CryptoParty is a decentralized, global initiative to introduce basic cryptography tools – such as the Tor anonymity network, public key encryption (PGP/GPG), and OTR (Off The Record messaging) – to the general public.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Why does the general public need encryption?” The “why” of it all could yield a series of articles stretching from now until my digits have become worn to bloody nubs. Since that is not our intention here we will focus on just a few examples. See if you can identify why you’ll want to guarantee your online privacy even if, as the old privacy-invasion myth goes, “you’re not doing anything wrong, so you don’t have anything to hide.”
Put quite simply, data retention is the storage of digital communications for later analysis. Data Retention in itself is nothing new and many ISPs have engaged in the practice for some time now. However, what has become alarming recently is the prevalence of government policies (usually administered by spy agencies like the NSA and FBI) that compel service providers to turn over your data, and the ease in which they are able to do it. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending digital rights, “Law enforcement agencies throughout the world are pushing for invasive laws that force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom providers to continuously collect and store records documenting the online activities of millions of ordinary users… Government mandated data retention impacts millions of ordinary users compromising online anonymity which is crucial for whistle-blowers, investigators, journalists, and those engaging in political speech. National data retention laws are invasive, costly, and damage the right to privacy and free expression. They compel ISPs and telcos to create large databases of information about who communicates with whom via Internet or phone, the duration of the exchange, and the users’ location. These regimes require that your IP address be collected and retained for every step you make online. Privacy risks increase as these databases become vulnerable to theft and accidental disclosure.”
Utah Data Center
We would not waste your time with some half-baked conspiracy nonsense. We are focusing on examples of well documented data retention that affects everyone. Certainly the most glaring example for the U.S. would be the Utah Data Center. The NSA facility features servers with storage capabilities that can be measured in yottabytes of data. The yottabyte is equal to one quadrillion gigabytes.
According to an April 2012 Wired article, “[F]or the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.”
Deep Packet Inspection