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Are You Making PRISM or Other NSA Changes?

If you’re a regular visitor to free software sites like FOSS Force, the recent revelations regarding the NSA and PRISM were probably not news to you. Probably most of us who are concerned about such luxuries as civil liberties understood from the first time we went online that we might as well assume we’re being watched and that there might one day be personal legal consequences, even if we never do anything illegal.

Most of probably realize that our governments don’t really care if we’ve done anything illegal or not. If we’re not thinking or acting in ways they want, then we’re subversive. Being subversive is a crime in the minds of those who control organizations such as the National Security Agency and the CIA.

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Most of us here at FOSS Force are veterans of the failed revolution that shook the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Because of this, we don’t take any actions to hide from established powers of authority when we’re online as a matter of principle. We may tell our browsers not to track and disallow the placement of any third party cookies, but we don’t really put much trust in that to have much effect. We don’t quit Googling and we don’t quit doing research on any subject that interests us, no matter what guilt-by-association sites our searches or research may cause us to view.

This doesn’t mean we’re stupid. This doesn’t mean that when our research takes us to, say, the Iranian government’s website that we don’t have an “oh s**t” moment and let a second of worry about big brother flit through our consciousness. But we’re pretty much defiant. We figure it’s the duty of all world citizens to not let the powers who would tame us do so.

Here at FOSS Force, we haven’t changed our online habits one ort since the NSA news broke. Part of that is fatalistic. What’s the use? If the faceless “they” wants to know where we’re going online or what search terms we use to get there, they’ll find out. We might as well just hand it to them and save them the trouble of planting some sort of trojan on our computers–which would be a lot of work to only discover we’re just a bunch of old hippies who still hate the government but who are too tired to do anything about it but complain.

We were surprised to discover, in a recent interview conducted by Roy Schestowitz at Techrights, that Richard Stallman makes a similar point:

RMS: Well, I generally use DuckDuckGo first, but I will use the Google search engine also.

RSS: There are several… OK, this actually relates to a discussion I’ve been having all over the Internet in the past few months and the thing about DuckDuckGo, it’s hosted in the United States, whereas something like IXQuick or StartPage are based in Holland, and some people have pointed out that DuckDuckGo is using Yahoo, which basically means Microsoft for search results, to a certain degree. And they also seem to be very…

RMS: Look, we don’t know to what extent [duck duck go records things]…. there is no proof that DuckDuckGo doesn’t track IP addresses, for instance, of requesters. And they could have been [tracking], right? What can they possibly do to prove that they don’t track people? The point is, I don’t refuse to use Google search engine either because I just never find myself in such a way… I always just use it from other people’s computers, people who have let me use them, of course. [If] I don’t have to break security, I borrow people’s computers for a few minutes… for a while [incomprehensible] to use, so my searches are done from lots of different machines and each of those machines is mainly used by others.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 08/07/2013 13:53:11
end_date 26/09/2013 12:25:51
Poll Results:
To what degree have recent spying revelations regarding the NSA and PRISM caused you to change your online habits?

If they’re going to spy, they’re going to spy.

We’re certainly going to fight tooth and nail to get them to stop it. We’ll fight to have laws changed, passed or whatever it takes to protect our privacy online. We’ll call for the establishment of watchdog agencies and we’ll do all we can to support them.

What we won’t do is let the enemies of freedom who work for agencies like the NSA or CIA control our lives. We will visit any websites we want and we won’t give a flying frack who knows it. Let them nose into our personal business, if that’s what they want to do.

We would hope the spooks, and every government on the planet has them, have better things to do but nose into our business. It would be nice if they were out there catching people who really need to be caught, and doing so without stepping on the rights of free thinking law abiding citizens.

In other words, when we take our Surfing in the Time of Spying poll the answer will be “no, we haven’t made any changes to the way we use the Internet. Nor is it our intention to do so.”

14 comments to Are You Making PRISM or Other NSA Changes?

  • Lizbeth

    Think about how much storage space it would consume to record everyone’s activity on the internet, even just that of activity that crosses us borders. How much space do you need to record all that evidence? Who has that capacity? An US government agency with that much hard drive space? It’s ridiculous to phathom.

  • @Lizbeth As strange as it may seem, the NSA is building a giant facility in Utah that’s been said to be capable saving all activity on the Internet. I just hope they remember the old axiom, garbage in/garbage out.

  • Grant

    I increased the potentially subversive searches. I am a law abiding citizen, and when they come to get me, maybe it will be a mess for them and someone will notice, bringing them down a notch. Search for lots of stuff that could be used in a bad way, but just to know about it so you can watch out that no one else is doing it to you. For instance, if you know what bombs look like, you know not to open your car door when you see one on the front seat.

  • Much like the author, I’ve left my online habits pretty much unchanged. Except for occasionally saying hello to my NSA 4th Amendment Concierge™ agent! :) [S]he never returns the favor, sadly…

  • You guys are great. Back in the 1990s, a friend of mine used to embed all of the words that the FBI was sniffing email for with Carnivore in each and every email he sent, just to keep the guys at the FBI busy.

  • Aaron

    I changed my ssid to “NSA VAN #3″

  • @Aaron If comments had a “like” button, I’d click it. :-)

  • @Christine,

    Regarding ‘like’ on comments, you might want to consider the manifold benefits of DISQUS, which I use, including the ability to up/down vote on comments.

    fyi:
    http://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/658811-how-voting-works

  • @Dietrich We’re very well aware of Disqus. Some of our client sites use it. For our sites, we have a policy of not using any plugins that connect with another server other than our own. We make an exception for WordPress plugins that connect through WordPress APIs.

    There are several plugins we could use that would give us the ability to allow “likes” to our comments, but we prefer other ways to load our server down. The remark was made in jest. However, thank you for thinking about us.

  • romin nichel

    I did changed my way to use internet.
    The NSA scandal was the final straw. To be honest I don’t mind too much about the spooks spying on me, I don’t have much to hide. But it finished to open my eyes on the ugly side of the so called “free” services (google, yahoo, facebook…). “free” as long as you are ready to give up all your privacy for companies ready to sell all kind of information about you. All those companies have only one goal : sell advertisement. On this assumption we are building an ugly world.

  • @romin nichel Amen to that.

  • I have to say this has been my take on this for a long time. I knew back in the 70’s that the government was actively spying on those it could and always would be.

    One of the things I always told folks when the ‘Internet’ was first coming onto it’s own, ‘if you put something out there, it’s for all intents and purposes ‘public’.

    So nope, don’t change for them, they won’t change for you. If they have any questions about our “searching” and “comments” they can come ask. In the meantime one hopes their eyes bleed from all the boring ass reading they have to do when they look through my stuff.

    As for the one comment from Lisbeth, do be aware that Google was taking web snotshots back in 2000, that was how I found a couple of old websites I used to hang out at, but went defunct sometime around 2005.

  • […] Are You Making PRISM or Other NSA Changes? If you’re a regular visitor to free software sites like FOSS Force, the recent revelations regarding the NSA and PRISM were probably not news to you. Probably most of us who are concerned about such luxuries as civil liberties understood from the first time we went online that we might as well assume we’re being watched and that there might one day be personal legal consequences, even if we never do anything illegal. […]

  • nivek

    This NSA activity has been explosive! Even the president and the party yes-men know it’s really bombed, blowing-up in his face and assassinating the president’s positive news ratings. Fighting jihad or spying on Joe and Jane?

    Either way with those flight of words I should have got some NSA attention and broadened the readership. :-)