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.
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.
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.”