This July 4th, I spent the day on the steps of the Old Courthouse in downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, participating in one of the day’s “Restore The Fourth Amendment” rallies that happened in over 50 cities across the United States.
The most striking thing about this event was the sheer diversity of political persuasions the people participating in the rally held. I spoke to more people with different political beliefs at this one rally than I did during my weeks at Occupy camps across the States. That’s awesome.
If absolutely nothing else is clear, this is undeniable: THE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO BE SPIED ON. Even the folks who “have nothing to hide” don’t want to be surveilled. How do I know this? I asked them!
“Why should I care? I have nothing to hide,” many people said.
“Then why do you have curtains on your windows at home?” we asked.
Privacy is not about justifying innocence. Privacy isn’t a reward. Privacy isn’t even merely a right conferred by the US Bill of Rights.
I feel we have fallen ill to our own hubris regarding what we’ll allow our government to do. We’ve assumed for a long time that American citizens are protected from the American government, even as we’re seemingly okay with having ‘foreign nationals’ and other people with scary sounding names under surveillance. And it seems to me like incredible hubris that when the surveillance State turns around and starts to spy on its own citizensâ€”it’s unfortunate that so many people are surprised by that.
So this [“Restore the Fourth Amendment” cause] is an important issue for me because I’m an American citizen and I don’t think I should have more protection against surveillance than a citizen of any other nation, because privacy is a human right, not just in the Bill of Rights.
While rallies and handing out flyers to passers-by are important, they’re not enough. I believe that one thing we can do that’s far more important and effective at resisting the surveillance State is educating people about things they can do, both legally and technologically.
To that end, I organized a spontaneous teach-in on privacy technologies that are free, secure against the NSA, and available to you today. I also made myself available to help people install, use, and learn about these things all day, in a one-on-one fashion. It went wonderfully, and it was SO much fun! I want to do this againâ€”and so can you! All it took was a few pieces of paper, markers, and the willingness to speak up.
In the teach-in, modeled after Cryptoparties, a group of about 10 folks installed and walked through using secure mobile communications tools for their phone platform (ChatSecure for iOS devices and TextSecure for Android devices). I also gave out a lot of resources. Among them:
Best of all, I made some new friends. :) Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful day!