Privacy alliance calls for internet ‘reset’

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Privacy alliance calls for internet ‘reset’

Warwick Ashford

An alliance of technology firms, internet sites, civil liberties groups and other organisations has launched a campaign to block mass surveillance of the internet by government agencies.

More than 20 groups, including Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Reddit, DuckDuckGo and BoingBoing, have set 5 June as the day to reset the 'Net’ by deploying new privacy tools.

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The group has chosen the date to coincide with the first anniversary of the revelations of mass internet surveillance by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In the subsequent months, more details have emerged about the NSA’s Prism surveillance programme and similar programmes by US allies, including the UK.

According to the group’s website, the NSA is exploiting weak links in internet security to spy on the entire world, “twisting the internet we love into something it was never meant to be: a panopticon.”

“We can't stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet,” the website says.

Alliance members plan to implement security improvements and are calling on other website owners and app makers to add proven security such as SSL encryption.

The group is also encouraging internet users and developers to use tools such as HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).

On 5 June, alliance members plan to run a splash screen “everywhere” to spread NSA-resistant privacy tools to encourage companies, organisations and individuals to limit state surveillance capabilities.

“No government can take that away from us, so we're going to use the power we have to take it back,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future.

“Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That's why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance,” she said.

Reddit general manger, Erik Martin, said control of private data can be regained one website, one device, one internet user at a time. “We're proud to stand up for our users' rights and help Reset the Net,” he said.

Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute said: "As the NSA and other intelligence authorities continue to undermine the basic security of the Internet ecosystem, it's become clear that we need to build new legal and technical firewalls against overreaching government surveillance."

"The Open Technology Institute is excited to support Reset the Net and highlight the need for all of us – both individual internet users and the companies that serve them – to take full advantage of encryption and other security tools that can help protect our private data against snoops, spies, criminals and creeps," he said.

In recent months, several large suppliers of online services including Twitter, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have announced security improvements to protect users’ data from government snooping.

Read more about Prism


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