How to resist in a surveillance state
I want to highlight two items relating to surveillance of people who dare resist the status quo. First, your cell phone:
The New York Timesreports that the Ukrainian government is using advanced surveillance technology to track protesters in the streets.
The Ukrainian government used telephone technology to pinpoint the locations of cellphones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters early on Tuesday, illustrating that techniques that can be used to target commercial information can serve law enforcement as well.
People near the fighting between riot police and protesters received a text message shortly after midnight saying “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
The phrasing echoed language in a new law making participation in a protest deemed violent a crime punishable by imprisonment. The law took effect on Tuesday.
The device used in Kiev is most likely what’s known as an ‘IMSI catcher‘, which tricks cell phones into thinking it is a cell phone tower. Any phone within a certain distance of the device will therefore send identifying information to it, allowing the operator to automatically compile a list of every person nearby with a cell phone. The systems can also capture web, phone, and text content from mobile devices, as well as automatically serve content like text messages to every phone within range. For that reason, advertisers and corporations increasingly use them to target people with location-specific pitches for products and services.
Back in 2012, a security researcher in the United Statestold an audience of hackers in New York that the NYPD routinely used IMSI catchers at the Occupy Wall Street protests, enabling the intelligence division to keep nearly perfect records of every person in attendance.
Another estimateof the prevalence of corporate espionage–but perhaps a self-serving one–comes from Russell Corn, managing director of Diligence, a corporate intelligence agency. Corn says that “private spies make up 25 per cent of every activist camp. ‘If you stuck an intercept up near one of those camps, you wouldn’t believe the amount of outgoing callsafter every meeting saying, ‘Tomorrow we’re going to cut the fence’,’ he smiles. ‘Easily onein four of the people there are taking the corporate shilling.’”
I doubt it’s one in 4, but I bet it’s high.
Here is the bloody rule: if you are involved in these activities you either don’t take a cell phone, or you put it in a Faraday bag (I have just learned, joy, that taking the batteries out might not be enough, as there is a backup battery you don’t control, meant to avoid loss during battery changes and so on). In addition to being a tracking device you take with you, it is also possible to use your phone as a bug, to listen in remotely. Laptops are also problematic if they have a camera, can connect to the internet, or have microphone. At the least, keep them powered off.
The technological revolution did not happen unless you want everyone to know your business. There are times when you do, but if you don’t, turn this stuff off.
Next: infiltration. Assume that your movement is infiltrated. Figure out how to identify the moles. When you do, if you’re serious, you need to figure out a way to punish them so that whoever sent them won’t, or can’t, send more. I leave how to do that to the reader to figure out.
Next, forget democratic decision making when it comes to specific tactical decisions. One person should know what you’re going to do, and he or she should not tell ANYONE until just before it is to be done, and hopefully too late for effective counter-action.
Finally: assume surveillance. Learn how to obscure your identity, and learn where the blind spots of the system are. A lot of countries are making wearing masks during demonstrations illegal, but there are other ways. Again, I leave how to do this an exercise to the reader, but bear in mind, it doesn’t take much to screw up facial recognition, and gloves are still your friend, and not illegal.
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