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Handson Workshop: Privacy, Emails & Encryption, SUNDAY MORNING

(this is a hands on session following on from Privacy & Surveillance)

ADOPTER(S) Ingmar Lippert (Contact info) FACILITATOR(S) it would be good to identify facilitators in advance! enter names here

Why Encryption?

Most data sent and received using the internet is "plain text". This means, everybody (who has some technical knowledge and the access) can read the data, which passes through a computer. Emails, for example, are routed via many servers until they reach the final mailbox (e.g. at a university mailserver). People who have access to any of these servers can read plain text messages.

Several programmes exist, which allow users (i.e. you and me) to exchange messages without the need to do this in plain text: we can use encryption.

Who actually is interested in reading my mail?

Two kinds of organisations have structural interest in learning about you and me, and our social networks:

  • State apparatuses
  • Corporate business
  • Political opponents, e.g. far rights

Let me briefly point out, how and why this interest supposedly exist: State apparatuses (like i.e. security services, police, military, and tax offices) have the function to ensure that the nation state continues to exist, that the society and economy runs smoothly. Supposed threats against these are to be mitigated or destroyed. When the state feels threatened it wants to know how to fight the supposed threats (individuals as such, demonstrations, action, ...). This knowledge can be easily gathered by "listening" to plain text data streams on the internet. Corporate business is interested in making sure potential or current workers or active citizens and their networks outside do not threaten the company. To fights such supposed threats, again, they need knowledge. This knowledge can be gained by reading your emails. Even companies exist, which sell data to other corporate or state institutions. They simply do "data mining". Political opponents - there is not much to say, seems self-evident to me.

"My mail is safe"

Even if you believe that nobody will read your messages, you still should use GPG. If only people, say activists, who have obvious ground to be under surveillance use GPG, then they are easily recognised as such. So, the more activists use GPG, the more difficult it is for others to differentiate which messages are "relevant". Thus, the whole internet becomes more secure when many people use GPG.

Three things to do before the Knowledge Lab

  • If you bring your laptop, you could install the Recommended relevant software beforehand,
  • You could get ready for encryption: How_to_use_GPG?,
  • You could have a look at some literature about the topic (see following links).