Opening the backdoor to vulnerable communities

“We don’t know how to make a backdoor that only good guys can go through”
I hope that the debate over the Investigatory Powers bill is common knowledge. I know that I am particularly concerned about my online privacy and security so much so I am often met with a lot of resistance and the argument of “my data isn’t worth anything” and “who cares what I am doing or talking about?”.


You see, while it is often (and ignorantly) seen that privacy enthusiasts have something to hide, it is in our rights to have privacy. Just check out the history of privacy. We want it. Whether that be physically shutting people out when we want to go to the bathroom or whether we don’t wish to tell the receptionist at the GP what is wrong.


But what if you did have something to hide? Like an illness that you didn’t want your colleagues and friends to find out about because it is embarrassing or you’re ashamed or that you don’t want to be approached by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Speaking from experience, there are a lot of groups in “closed” and “private” spaces such as on Facebook, and the people within these groups have a common issue that binds them. The desire to share and seek empathy with like-minded individuals can be affirmational. Often personal relationships are built within these communities and more intimate conversations are taken out of the closed, but public to the group, discussion to a another messaging service.
“a small group bands together to defend its values against internal and external challenges”
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
We have to make a human judgement of whether someone is trustworthy and whether we can share secrets with them that they will not share with someone else. But when we have so many of our conversations online, we must also think about the spaces in which we have discussions. Are they trustworthy? Do you trust that the company won’t change their policies that could jeopardise your data? Do you trust the encryption on Whatsapp? Did you know that it was encrypted? I’d recommend reading this article about the history or Whatsapp’s encryption and lack of security for its users.
The means available to criminals, terrorists and hostile foreign
states to co-ordinate, inspire and to execute their plans are evolving. Communications technologies that cross communications platforms and international borders increasingly allow those who would do us harm the opportunity to evade detection.
So what if the government then turned a bill that said they were going to weaken the encryption for the interest of national and international security against terrorism. To many again this seems like a simple compromise, especially if you have nothing to hide. But not only can the ‘good guys’ hack into your conversations, but the vulnerabilities in the weakened crypto are also apparent and available for the bad guys to get in too. The guys that can find you with associated data mapping, work out what groups you are in on Facebook and who else is in them, find your mobile number and theirs, then hack your conversations. It might sound extreme, but these conversations are not worth the risk. Would I want to be involuntarily outed? Nope, and I certainly don’t want my data to be harvested and sold to anyone trying to make a profit from my suffering.


My top apps for secure conversations right now are both Wickr and Signal. They’re both brilliant. I have just downloaded Kloak (by SpiderOak) and am keen to have a play! Do take a look at this article to check out the differing measures of encryption between common channels (BBM, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp) and the underdog alternatives.

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