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Fighting Back Against Surveillance.

Newsclick Production |

This video details ways in which individuals can fight back against invasions of privacy and the mass surveillance being carried out by the US government.


Rishab Bailey (RB): Hello and welcome to Newsclick. In this, the third part of our series on NSA surveillance, we examine what you, an ordinary user, can do to fight back.

Nagarjun Kandukuru (NK): The revelations of Edward Snowden have established that everything we do online is being captured, stored and analysed. We also know that the Internet is being co-opted by the NSA to further America's global hegemony. The obvious question then is, how can the world fight back? We will have some direct action tips for you later but let's start at the top first. The good news is that many world leaders are speaking out. Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN General Assembly recently. She said correctly that the NSA was violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted at the country's strategic industries like oil. She also cancelled the plan, the trip to the US, in protest of her phone and those of other Brazilians too, being tapped. Similarly German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has rebuked the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, in strong terms. America has thus far responded with only vague promises of action but popular opinion in America is increasingly taking cognisance of Benjamin Franklin's old admonishment that those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.


RB: India too has added its voice through the now withdrawn UN-CIRP proposal which aims to reduce the power of the UN based ICANN and place it in the hands of a United Nations body. Without going into the details of it, the principle behind the proposal is a laudable one: the idea that the Internet should be a common heritage of mankind and therefore governed through international consensus. More broadly we need to internationalise governance systems to reduce US control. We need international laws and organisations to govern things that should be in the public domain and are properly public policy issues. For example, who should control the DNS system? Should a Google be the source to index all of humanity's knowledge, built as it is on knowledge found in the public domain? How do you do deal with instances of cyber warfare or unilateral disconnection of service to a country?

NK: let's look at the domestic situation now. We need to ensure that appropriate laws are passed locally. We have seen the Indian Government looking to introduce an arguably unconstitutional system in the Central Monitoring System. There's also been creeping expansion of state powers. For instance in the preconditions for use of emergency powers under the Telegraph Act and the IT Act. We all know about the archaic Section 66A of the IT Act that criminalises a long list of objectionable comments online. Clearly the wording of this provision is too broad, vague and ambiguous. We have seen numerous instances of the misuse of this provision despite the Supreme Court's intervention. There have been periodic protests all across the country against Section 66A and we must join them.


RB: The Indian government must think more progressively about the data of its citizens, for example, for all government IT work it must be mandated that all data be hosted within the boundaries of this country, but we're still far away from getting there considering that many government departments still use Gmail for official work. Let's not forget that the government is using numerous US security contractors for its UID initiative as well. India needs a forward looking policy that increases the use of open source hardware and software systems. A question to consider is the influence foreign or multinational corporations have on Indian policy making and whether this best serves the interests of our country.

NK: Well known software technologies like GNU/Linux and LibreOffice can reduce the control the American Government have on our data. In the next few years we will see the Internet of things and ubiquitous computing come of age. We will see Internet connected energy meters, ECG machines, thermostats and devices of every other description. If those are based on open hardware systems like Arduino, we will substantially reduce the impact of surveillance efforts.


RB: Finally let's talk about what you can do as an individual. First start, assume that everything you do online is being tracked, stored and analysed. The likelihood can be reduced by employing encryption technologies like SSH, PGP and Tor but the risk still remains substantial.

NK: Most of all political action is required. We have to convince our fellow citizens that surveillance is not about fighting child porn, drugs or terrorism. It's about protecting vested economic interests and silencing dissent. The good news is we have allies in this fight. Some of the world's major websites such as are mounting a challenge starting February 11th. ThoughtWorks, where I work, is a part of it too. Go to '' to join the fight. This kind of action worked very well as recently as 2012. On that occasion many websites like Wikipedia went dark in protest of a proposed draconian corporate law called SOPA, and eventually US lawmakers were stopped. That should offer us hope. If we band together and fight, comprehensive surveillance can be history. Once again, the address is ''.


RB: Thank you again for joining us at Newsclick and we hope to see you again soon.

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