A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest

Book - 2016
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MIT Press

How we can evade, protest, and sabotage today's pervasive digital surveillance by deploying more data, not less—and why we should.

With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today's pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it.

Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users' search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.

How we can evade, protest, and sabotage today's pervasive digital surveillance by deploying more data, not less—and why we should.

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts :, MIT Press,, 2016
Edition: First MIT Press paperback edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780262529860
Characteristics: x, 123 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Nissenbaum, Helen Fay - Author


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Jun 27, 2017

This is a neat little book with a wealth of information.
I was especially impressed with the subchapter 2.18 Manufacturing conflicting evidence: confounding investigation [p. 41], describing the account of the investigation into the murder of Bishop Gerardi of Guatemala [The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? by Francisco Goldman] and how those behind the murder [and too many others] produced TOO MUCH CONFLICTING EVIDENCE, too many witnesses and testimonials, too many possible stories. By drowning the investigators and public with ambiguous data they would instill despair at ever discovering the truth!
This harkens back to the aftermath of the murder of President Kennedy - - while other political assassinations ere far greater controlled events [Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sen. Bobby Kennedy and Sen. Paul Wellstone and members of his family], the JFK assassination was too public - - thus endless stories were concocted about pro-Castro Cubans, and anti-Castro Cubans, the KGB, Mafia, Texan super-rightwingers, and as truth-seekers edged closer to the French connection [the assassins were all French-speaking***], then more concocted stories about Mafia-Union Corse connections and the Corsican Brotherhood [interchangeable with the Union Corse], et cetera.
In 1977, the year of the accidental FOIA request releases, one by the NY Times discovered the CIA strategy to flood the airwaves, beginning back in 1964 with the release of the Warren Commission Report, with the terms // conspiracy theory \\ and // conspiracy theorists \\ in an attempt to discredit all truth seekers! Not a day goes by but that I hear either NPR stooges - - or my fellow citizens - - mention multiple times such terms!
***The assassins were Lucien Conein - - CIA, Jean Rene Souetre - - French Army deserter and OAS member, Lazlo - - French Foreign Legion deserter and OAS member, and Mozes Maschkivitzan - - Belgian criminal and CIA contract killer.

Apr 25, 2017

In these days of continuous tracking, unexposed selling, and intrusive dicing of our private, personal data---including vicious techniques like doxing---every citizen should read this well-written, 95-page book and learn better protection from the unscrupulous. The authors walk you through asymmetrical strategies (some quite funny), open source tools (AdNauseaum, TrackMeNot, CacheCloak), and a step-by-step Protective Goal decision tree that gives you a toolkit for a safer, more private online life. Thank you to MIT and NYU for nurturing the authors and this timely topic. For those of us over 30, remember the internet fondly, the way it used to be before it was polluted. From the last page: "There is no simple solution to the problem of privacy, because privacy itself is a solution to societal challenges that are in constant flux. Some are natural and beyond our control; others are technological and should be within our control but are shaped by a panoply of complex social and material forces with indeterminate effects. Privacy does not mean stopping the flow of data; it means channeling it wisely and justly to serve societal ends and values and the individuals who are its subjects, especially the vulnerable and the disadvantaged." Amen.


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