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We the terrorists…?

Categories: Activism, Advocacy, Regulation

This is how the FBI can consider everyone liking his/her online privacy. Katitza Rodrigez was depicting [1] very finely and accurately the current state of privacy fights right before International Privacy Day. The latter was just few days ago, on 28th January. And here comes the FBI now with a very interesting and precise flyer telling people how to spot a terrorist.

FBI's leaked flyer. Source: Public Intelligence [2]

FBI's leaked flyer. Source: Public Intelligence

As you can see it, any use of “anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address” is considered as a suspicious activity such as terrorism. Additionally, if you use encryption or are somehow “overly concerned about privacy” or attempting to “shield the screen from view of others”, you are suspicious of being potentially engaged or supporting terrorists.

This means that using a proxy or the Tor network makes you automatically suspicious. This puts you in the same basket as a woman wanting to remove her nail polisher who buys some acetone or the cute granny from the house around the corner buying fertilizers for her lovely petunia.

But the delirious indications of potential terrorists are not the only concern in this flyer. I am also disturbed by the “Be Part of The Solution” invitation. Actually this transforms a citizen into a walking surveillance device. Either you report what is defined as suspicious and you can help prevent some (un)likely terrorists to commit their rogue acts, or you don't and you are actually in the bad situation of likely supporting these activities… More clearly, if someone uses HTTPS next to you in the library, you should open your eyes and double-check what the person spends his/her spare time on. We missed you, McCarthy [3]

This flyer is one more amongst the already rich collection of 25 such documents [4] the FBI has produced and gathered under the name “Communities Against Terrorism”. They are aimed at being widely distributed and provide some basic tools for ordinary people to report “suspicious activity”. The latter can be encountered in quite a few threat areas such as airport service providers, hobby shops or tattoo shops… You might also remember the case of the Casio F-91W digital watch that was claimed to be used in terrorism. More notably, as The Guardian was telling it [5], this watch was “the sign of al-Qaida” and the mere fact of possessing it was considered as a contributing factor to continued detention at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. This would sound funny if it was not tragic: a whole list [6] of detainees exists…

Who is next? The EFF for promoting HTTPS Everywhere [7], the guys from the Tor project [8] for providing a tool to protect your online privacy or myself as any security-conscious employee for using a VPN [9] to connect from home to my computer at work in the week-end?