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This TED Talk is tame, but foreboding. It tells of companies that sell technology to governments — some and potentially all that use it not merely for law enforcement (terrorism, child predators, etc.) but to spy on citizens at will, monitoring even the communications of the Press. The software doesn’t distinguish between aid workers and terrorists, political dissidents and pedophiles, because we all use the same technology.

But the speaker doesn’t go far enough. Now that the CIA has admitted spying on members of Congress, even hacking their computers, we must realize we’ve given incredible power to government agencies, ones that already act outside nominal oversight of our elected officials. There is no “We the People”. It’s out of all of our control even if we still adhere to the notion the government is us, or on our side.

English: Privacy International 2006 privacy ra...

English: Privacy International 2006 privacy ranking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I propose a bold move, as important for the future of mankind as any amendment in the Bill of Rights. It must be illegal to make and sell intrusive hacking software, even to governments. ESPECIALLY to governments. When governments do these actions, those involved are tried internationally as punishable crimes against humanity.

FightForTheFuture.Org has already wages a counter-offensive, named “Reset the Net“. On the unquestionable premise that we’ve lost privacy rights without any public debate, and “[b]y refusing to pass meaningful reform on this issue, the government is giving us no choice but to redouble our efforts to mount a digital self-defense against mass spying.”

Here are some salvos from their newsletter:

  • Namecheap just launched, a one-stop site that makes it easy to add SSL encryption to your website for just $1.99 (and some gets donated to us!)
  • GSM Nation, a major seller of unlocked smartphones, is joining Reset the Net by including a physical “Privacy Pack” insert in the thousands of phones they ship.
  • reddit, with 115 million unique visitors a month, vowed to continue offering free advertising to privacy-related startups for the duration of the Reset the Net campaign. Got an app they should feature? Tell us on Twitter o r reply to this email.
  • The Student Net Alliance, a new network of campus groups working for Internet freedom, launched a Campus Internet Policy Gradebook to pressure colleges and universities to adopt better practices to protect student privacy and free speech rights.
  • Open Whisper Systems announced this week the launch of Signal, a new app allowing for FREE and easy end-to-end encrypted phone calls worldwide on iPhone. Check it out and start making phone calls in privacy!

The war isn’t coming. It is here and is increasingly more pressing the longer we play ostrich. We cannot be complicit by rationalized apathy via cowardly and inane arguments about the benefit being worth the price. We know the price its too high and always has been when governments supercede privacy of person. The only question is if citizens have chosen to be serfs, or are merely in denial over the gravity of matters that aren’t as tactile or visible as gangs of Brown Shirts and Black Helicopters?

It is the sort of thing that perhaps

requires vigorous shaking of the shoulders, because by the time the consequences ARE visible and physically imposing, it will be far, far too late.