Reset the Net

It’s been one year since we started to learn the extent to which our government is surveilling us with massive, dragnet programs. There were hints before, but the government and the mainstream press actively suppressed the whistle-blowers who tried to warn us. Each revelation was met with denials and deflections, but each new revelation has been more damning than the last. And the revelations still continue a year after the story finally broke.

I believe these programs to be illegal, unconstitutional, and fundamentally incompatible with democracy. They have made us less secure, not more so.

Congress and the President have failed to take any significant steps during this year toward reigning in this unconscionable abuse. Worse, they’ve pardoned the telecommunications companies who collaborated with past illegal surveillance in order to buy their cooperation with the other programs. They’ve weakened encryption standards, which makes all of us less safe. They’ve sacrificed the moral high-ground necessary to use diplomacy to protect ourselves from cyber-espionage committed by other governments.

Congress needs to step up. This should be a matter of law, not of policy. Policies are much too fluid to protect the security and privacy of our nation and its people.

But if the government won’t protect us, we’ll have to do it ourselves. Learn to use encryption and privacy tools. Demand them from the software vendors you rely on. Think twice before committing to a cloud-based service. The NSA has taken advantage of the centralization of the telecoms systems and the trend toward centralization of the Internet in order to eavesdrop on all of us. But the Internet doesn’t need to be centralized. It wasn’t designed that way. Surveillance is damage, and we can route around it.