Ever heard of a yottabyte? It’s 1,000 times the size of the internet and the amount of data the U.S. government can hold in its Utah Data Center, Jonathan Stribling-Uss, the director of Constitutional Communications, tells me.
If you haven’t seen Citizenfour yet or read any of Glenn Greenwald‘s stuff, here’s a newsflash: The U.S. government is keeping track of all your online and phone interactions, 24/7, picking up every last awkward text message to a crush or drunk phone call you’d rather forget. (Not to mention the hackers who are getting ever better at infiltrating your system.)
If you’re not into handing all your privacy to big brother, head to this beginner anti-surveillance skill share at the activist community center Mayday in Bushwick at 3 PM on Saturday, where Stribling-Uss will teach you the latest on cyber-security and data protection.
Stribling-Uss first learned to encrypt messages after he was deported from China in 2008 for taking part in a demonstration to support Tibet. Thanks to secure texting and calling tools, his group had managed to avoid surveillance and unfurl Tibetan flags at the Beijing Olympics.
“We wouldn’t have been able to communicate without that,” he said. “In China, they monitor all the networks.” At the time, he didn’t know the U.S. was using the same methods to surveil, both internationally and at home.
Now his organization trains lawyers, journalists, non-profits and movements like Black Lives Matter, to ensure that their communications systems are protected from both the government and hackers.
This Saturday, show up to Mayday with a laptop and USB drive (suggested donation is $10-$20) and he’ll teach you a primer on the anti-surveillance toolkit: onion routers, Tor, OTR (Off The Record Chat) and PGP email servers (Pretty Good Privacy). You’ll leave with “the world’s most secure operating system” and a bundle of security tools.
Aren’t sure if you should be concerned? Who cares about the awkward selfies you send your friends? Think again. Stribling-Uss says a well-known organization was hacked for ransom in the middle of a training he was giving. “It’s way more common than we are made to believe because no one goes public,” he said.
And don’t be scared off by those onion routers. Hiding data trails is already common practice in many areas of our lives, like the work place (office passes) or home (garage door openers). “People think of this stuff as very arcane and the word ‘encrypt’ is very weird and complicated,” Stribling-Uss said. “There are very concrete steps that individuals and groups can do to have a very high degree of security and privacy from most hacking and mass surveillance.”
Still got an appetite for more? Why not check out this Bushwick/Bed Stuy cop watch training open house after you’re done updating your system. It’s taking place at The Base community organization at 7 PM.