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Privacy is Property: Anti-surveillance Panel discussion

The major theme I took away from the panel discussion was awareness. The first step in engaging in anti-surveillance activity is to understand the digital devices we use. So many of us don’t put much thought on how devices and platforms we use everyday, such as our phones, email, and even our own personal GPS can invade our privacy.

The panel on anti-surveillance began with a power point by Gregory Donovan an Assistant Professor on Sociology and Urban Studies. His power point introduced and explained how easily data spreads our information, where all of this information goes and what is ultimately done with it. One thing in particular I appreciated about this segment, is how he brought in the legal aspect of online monitoring. The supreme court case, Jones vs. United States, highlights the problem with privacy and data output. The public unknowingly outputting private information such as their geographical location into a system that can ultimately be used against them in the court of law. In the discussion portion of the panel, Donovan made a really good point in stating that privacy is property in the eyes of the law. If any legal changes are to be made about online privacy, it would actually be seen as: our right to property and protecting our property from trespassers. Donovan concluded that while all of these platforms that spread our data and personal information, have terms and conditions we must agree to (and have agreed to), the fact is we are not really consenting.

The second panel speaker was Carolyn Anhalt, a technology advisor at Internews and BIFSO. She began by asking, “What is the cost of communication?” She explained that surveillance is the business model of the internet and therefore we must protect ourselves. She told us about useful sites that help protect the data we put out, mostly by encrypting and maintaining anonymity online. One point I found most compelling is that the government itself funds these online tools (Tor and calyxinstitute.com)that circumvent their own surveillance schemes or similar entities from outside the U.S.. Anhalt explained this in the discussion portion of the panel that the Military and Navy fund these organizations to ultimately spread democracy in places that practice censorship such as China. This led me to wonder how these anti-surveillance tools become aware to users in China, if the internet is so censored?

The last speaker was Sandra Ordonez an Outreach Manager of Open ITP and Techno Activism 3rd Monday. Ordonez elaborated on other anti-surveillance tools and explained about groups such as Techno activism 3rd Monday. Techno activism 3rd Monday is a group that meets informally to ultimately connect software creators and activists who are interested in the current debate on surveillance and censorship currently practiced. These meets are suitable for those who wish to understand and educate themselves on how to navigate the internet “freely.”

I found this panel discussion extremely enlightening. I will admit that at times I felt overwhelmed by so much new information, sites, methods, and names of organizations that I lost track of certain ideas. Later, I began to research some the sites and apps they mentioned on my own. Unfortunately most of the mobile apps were only for the Andriod, IOS versions have not been created yet. Besides that, I plan on researching more anti-surveillance methods and maybe soon, I’ll dip my toe in the water.

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