An App for Dissidents–And Why It’s Harmful

Autonomous Internet, Counter-Oppression/Counter-Dictatorship Practices, Mobile
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COMMUNICATIONS

An App for Dissidents

A startup is offering free encrypted voice and text communications to protesters in Egypt.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2011  BY ROBERT LEMOS

MIT Technology Review

Two new applications for Android devices, called RedPhone and TextSecure, were released last week by Whisper Systems, a startup created by security researchers Moxie Marlinspike and Stuart Anderson. The apps are offered free of charge to users in Egypt, where protesters opposing ex-president Hosni Mubarak have clashed with police for weeks. The apps use end-to-end encryption and a private proxy server to obfuscate who is communicating with whom, and to secure the contents of messages or phone conversations. “We literally have been working night and day for the last two weeks to get an international server infrastructure set up,” says Anderson.

Anderson and Marlinspike are working with several nongovernmental organizations, such as MobileActive, to create a product that will be of use to other protesters. Of course, the software would not have helped when the Egyptian government took the unprecedented step of effectively shutting down both Internet and cellular communications across the entire country at the end of January.

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Phi Beta Iota: The problem with encryption is that it shouts out “hey, look at me” and basically eliminates the needle in the haystack challenge for even the most sophisticated signals intelligence agencies–80% or more of signals intelligence is about pattern analysis.  While obfuscating who is calling who WITHOUT the encryption has its merits, it runs against the larger emergence of meaningful patterns in human communications.  David Winberger addresses the larger concept in his book, Everything Is Miscellaneous–The Power of the New Digital Disorder. The public will never be able to compete with the government using secret sources & methods–that divides and conquers.  What the public needs is the ability to communicate without fear of government denial of access.  Open, transparent, constant.

See Also:

Journal: The Open Tri-Fecta–Open Spectrum Next

Reference: Transparency Killer App Plus “Open Everything” RECAP (Back to 01/2007)

Reference: Advanced Cyber-IO (First Cut)

Reference: Cyber-Intelligence–Restore the Republic Of, By, and For…

My Talk With Tom Atlee: Primer on Citizen Intelligence