Basile Simon (blog) Data, hackery, stories

Who's taking care of protecting your privacy?

####Note: This is the proposal for Contributoria, The Guardian’s crowdfunded journalism platform. If you’re a member and you want to see this piece published, please back it here!


It has now been more than a year since Edward Snowden’s revelations made the headlines and sparked a (moderate) outrage in the West. Snowden’s choice cost him part of his freedom. But for what?

Little has changed since. The NSA and the Obama administration have been questioned, and some answers were provided, but that’s about it.

It seems like it is now more than ever up to the individuals to take care of their privacy. The good news is that there is some hope here: the use of encryption is on the rise, and privacy-friendly products are being released every fortnight. From instant-messaging apps to end-to-end encrypted email services and secured phone calls, these services are lowering the barrier to entry of a technology that is still reserved to tech-savvy people.

However, a lot can happen to these services and people who try their best to protect us. Recently, TrueCrypt, leader of the open-source data encryption “on-the-fly” was dropped by its developers, for unknown reasons. A year ago, Lavabit, an encrypted email service used, among others, by Snowden, was shut-down by its founder to protect its users from the US government. Telegram, a Whatsapp-killer encrypted instant-messaging app for iOS and Android, is said by some to be not secure at all.

Who are these hackers who dedicate their time to protecting us? Do they think citizens will be able to reclaim their right to privacy by themselves? Where is personal security going?

I will meet with software developers and civic hackers from this security community. I will ask them about their beliefs, their motivations, but also about what we citizens should fear and hope from technology in 2014, a year after the NSA scandal.

I will also do my best to bring back some images (yes, on film!) from the interviews. The fee I am asking includes travel costs to Switzerland, where several sources currently live.

Image credit of Rob Jewitt under Creative Commons