Few hackers will disagree that users are not given enough consideration when building Internet Freedom Tools designed to circumvent censorship and surveillance. But how do we do it? This talk will outline a framework for a user-focused approach to the Development and Impact of Internet Freedom Tools through using ethnography, human-centered design, and the practice of research-based product definition. This talk is intended for developers, researchers, and journalists who seek to understand how better tools can be developed to protect anonymity and provide unfettered access to the Internet.
Internet Freedom Tools (IFTs) are developed to solve the technical challenges of anonymity, privacy, security and information access. Focus on these technical challenges rather than the user of an IFT can lead to overlooking the motivations, needs and usability issues faced by user communities. Further, IFTs may solve a technical challenge for users, and yet fall short when it comes to user experience. There is a disconnect that must be remedied for IFTs and the people who use them to realize their full potential. This talk seeks to provide new insights to developers and users in need of knowledge on how they can better address relevant problems, create appropriate solutions and help users with IFTs. This talk will explain to the audience what tools are available for user-focused design. It will also walk through a framework to guide the development of IFTs that is grounded in ethnographic methods and human-centered design, and how this framework is being used to conduct an IFT user community. This work is currently being conducted by SecondMuse and Radio Free Asia through the Open Technology Fund.
But, what is “Ethnography”? What are “User Communities”? Ethnography is defined as the study of culture and human motivation through qualitative research. Ethnographic practices complement usability studies by tapping into needs and motivations of people and users to give the “why” behind certain actions observed solely through conducting usability research. This method includes interviews, observing specific behaviors and understanding the material culture and surrounds of a target group. A community is defined as a group of users that can be defined by geography, culture, shared experiences, or shared challenges. User is defined as someone who is currently utilizing a particular IFTs such as Tor, RedPhone, CryptoCat, and/or other privacy, security, anonymity and access enhancing technologies and methodologies created by developers or users themselves. A user may also be defined as a potential user of such technologies and tools.
Based on her own experiences as an Intelligence Officer for MI5 (the UK domestic security service) and a whistleblower, Annie Machon will talk about the relationships between the wars on ‘terror’, drugs, whistleblowers, and the internet, and suggest some ideas about what we can do.
From Stellar Wind to PRISM, Boundless Informant to EvilOlive, the NSA spying programs are shrouded in secrecy and rubber-stamped by secret opinions from a court that meets in a faraday cage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl explains the known facts about how the programs operate and the laws and regulations the U.S. government asserts allows the NSA to spy on you.
Although people around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the United States’ global geography of surveillance, covert action, and other secret programs, much of this landscape is invisible in our everyday lives.
The drone war, for example, seems to happen somewhere else while surveillance programs take place among the (largely) invisible infrastructures and digital protocols of the internet and other communications networks. Moreover, the state agencies responsible for secret programs strive to make them as invisible as possible.
In this talk, artist Trevor Paglen discusses his work attempting to see the various aspects of the secret state. In examples ranging from tracking spy satellites to foraging through the bureaucratic refuse of CIA front companies, Paglen will discuss methods used to identify and exploit structural contradictions in classified programs which render them visible, and comment on the aesthetics and politics of attempting to see secrecy.
Law enforcement agencies claim they are “going dark”. Encryption technologies have finally been deployed by software companies, and critically, enabled by default, such that emails are flowing over HTTPS, and disk encryption is now frequently used. Friendly telcos, who were once a one-stop-shop for surveillance can no longer meet the needs of our government. What are the FBI and other law enforcement agencies doing to preserve their spying capabilities?
The news of the past few years is one small ripple in what is a great wave of culture and history, a generational clash of civilizations. If you want to understand why governments are acting and reacting the way they are, and as importantly, how to shift their course, you need to understand what they’re reacting to, how they see and fail to see the world, and how power, money, and idea of rule of law actually interact.
Our relationships with work and property and with the notion of national identity are changing rapidly. We’re becoming more polarized in our political opinions, and even in what we consider to be existential threats.
This terrain determines our world, even as we deal with our more individual relationships with authority, the ethics imposed by our positions in the world, and the psychological impact of learning that our paranoia was real. The idea of the Internet and the politics it brings with it have changed the world, but that change is neither unopposed nor detatched from larger currents. From the battles over global surveillance and the culture of government secrecy to the Arab Spring and the winter of its discontent, these things are part of this moment’s tapestry and they tell us about the futures we can choose. The world is on fire, and there is nowhere to hide and no way to stay neutral.
2013 will be remembered as the year that the Internet lost its innocence for nearly everyone as light was shed on the widespread use of dragnet surveillance by the NSA and intelligence agencies globally. With the uprisings of the Arab Spring where people raided the offices of their regimes to bring evidence to light, we’ve seen a tremendous phenomenon: a large numbers of whistleblowers have taken action to inform the public about important details. The WikiLeaks SpyFiles series also shows us important details to corroborate these claims. There is ample evidence about the use and abuses of a multi-billion dollar industry that have now come to light. This evidence includes increasing use of targeted attacks to establish even more invasive control over corporate, government or other so-called legitimate targets.
Alexa O’Brien speaking at Chaos Computer Club 30th Convention on the secret Trial of Manning.