A coalition of nearly two-dozen tech companies and civil liberties groups is launching a new fight against mass internet surveillance, hoping to battle the NSA in much the same way online campaigners pushed back on bad piracy legislation in 2012.
The new coalition, organized by Fight for the Future, is planning a Reset the Net day of action on June 5, the anniversary of the date the first Edward Snowden story broke detailing the government’s PRISM program, based on documents leaked by the former NSA contractor.
“Government spies have a weakness: they can hack anybody, but they can’t hack everybody,” the organizers behind the Reset the Net movement say in their video (above). “Folks like the NSA depend on collecting insecure data from tapped fiber. They depend on our mistakes, mistakes we can fix.”
To that end, the groups are calling on developers to add at least one NSA resistant feature to mobile apps, and on websites to add security features like SSL (Secure Socket Layer), HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security), and Perfect Forward Secrecy to better secure the communication of users and thwart government man-in-the-middle attacks.
They also want mobile apps and websites to post a Reset the Net splash screen on June 5 and are distributing a privacy packet for users that contains a bundle of various free software tools, like Adium and Pidgin (for encrypted chat), Textsecure, and Redphone (encrypted phone calls and text messaging) and GPG (for encrypted email).
Members of the coalition so far include Reddit, Imgur, DuckDuckGo, the Free Software Foundation, and CREDO Mobile, along with a number of civil liberties groups. CREDO Mobile is believed to be the anonymous telecom behind a constitutional battle over the government’s use of National Security Letters to obtain data from telecoms and other companies.
“A year after Snowden’s shocking revelations, the NSA is still spying on innocent Americans without a warrant,” Michael Kieschnick, CEO of CREDO Mobile, said in a statement about the Reset the Net campaign. “CREDO will continue to demand Congress and the president take action to stop unconstitutional mass warrantless surveillance, and until we win real reform, we will encourage users to adopt encryption tools to protect their personal communications from government abuse of the 1st and 4th amendment.”
The call to action recalls a similar grassroots movement that swept the internet in 2012 to protest two federal bills — the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. In that case, thousands of websites went dark or partially dark to halt the legislation. That successful campaign, however, was backed by powerhouse tech firms like Google and Twitter.
So far, none of these companies has joined the coalition.
“We are speaking to different people at a lot of these larger platforms,” says Tiffiniy Cheng, co director of Fight for the Future, which launched the Reset the Net movement. “We’re not sure where we are in those conversation but the conversations are going well.” She notes that the fight against mass surveillance is much more complex than the anti-SOPA campaign, and large companies may take different approaches this time around.
“A lot of companies have either made some public statement or have taken on security practices that would move us towards making mass surveillance very difficult to conduct, so they’re headed in the right direction,” she says. “We expect that they will come out and support the greater movement to make mass surveillance extremely hard to do…. Because the surveillance is done in so many different ways … there are different ways that you can push back on mass surveillance.”
New Movement Aims to ‘Reset the Net’ Against Mass Surveillance | Threat Level | WIRED.