As Data #PrivacyDay winds to an end, I didn't get to participate actively as I'm finishing my night at almost midnight and have a first call at 7am with folks in a certain developing country on another continent. I'll be speaking with them for the first time, to introduce them to a tool called Martus which we've configured for them to collect sexual assault data and report it securely to North America.
As internet access is limited in this country, and we don't know how many perpetrators are government bureaucrats, we have configured Martus to be using tor to keep the submissions anonymous on the internet.
It's after 11pm and I finished my final call for the day, when I was just reading once again that someone active in the social media #PrivacyDay stream says they don't need privacy tools, as they have nothing to hide.
What a luxurious position for this person to be in, I'd love to speak with them. I've never met someone who says they've got nothing to hide willing to walk outside naked or to tweet their credit cards and social insurance/security numbers to all.
In the case of privacy tools in internet access deprived countries, one of the big issues is the "signal to noise" issue. If you're a violent government perpetrator and you have access to see the digital footprint of one of your victims reporting your abuses, you may react unkindly to this. Simply by using a tool like tor, or strong encryption, your victims will stand out from the crowd, as their signal stands above the noise. As a result, the more people that use these tools, even when they have nothing to hide, make us all safer. The more of your neighbours and strangers raising the digital noise, make it difficult if not impossible to differentiate who the victim is. This article is for those who use tools to help raise the noise, so it's harder to find the signal of the victims. I'd like to say thanks to you.
It's also worth nothing that not only by using encryption tools like tor do you increase the noise and make us all safer, the more people who use these tools, the faster and more robust the system becomes for everyone.
So at the end of this #PrivacyDay, I'd like to give a little shout out to a few of the unsung heros deep in the trenches of human rights you've never heard of. Thanks to Collin Sullivan and Anna Berns at Benetech, for the hours they've spent on this project alone, around the clock. I spent time on Christmas Eve with Collin on a video conference working through a bug. Thanks to Renee Black, Executive Director of PeaceGeeks for the countless hours she puts in making the world better. All of these folks have been putting in hours on evenings and week-ends for months with little to no recognition, to make sure the victims reports are user friendly, while staying secure and private.
And finally, thanks to those of you who that take that little effort to help protect the privacy of those who need it by installing and using tools regularly like tor and GNU Privacy Guard. Lives depend on it, and the little inconvenience to yourself is appreciated. Privacy is consent, and we should stand up against those who remove it. We've all got something to hide, and although the victims can't tell you directly as I am, thank you.