Who’s Watching You?

[Download a PDF of this book report]

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority…

John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

Letter to Bishop Mandel Creighton, 4/5/1887

 

Who's Watching You cover

 

The (ironically titled) Disinformation Company published a book back in 2007 that was an overview of the surveillance police state control grid. Historically, tyrants gain more power whenever they keep tabs on their captive populations, like when Nicolae Ceausescu’s Securitate opened mail and tapped telephones during the Cold War, and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI profiled dissidents and broke up citizens’ groups using COINTELPRO. Generally speaking, such dragnet surveillance is typically a precursor to democide, and last century’s figures of well in excess of 144,019,000 citizens globally who were murdered by “their” own governments demonstrates just how serious these dragnets really are to not only our freedom, but also our very lives.

Corporate surveillance acclimates people to just voluntarily acquiesce to Big Brother, because if you can’t beat ‘em, then you must join ‘em, right? It’s not just the unwarranted surveillance of teenagers, employees, and even celebrities, but also the often highly inaccurate “public record packages” sold by commercial data brokers, including expunged criminal records! Elderly folks are not immune either, for they are usually targeted for customer loyalty cards, RFID tagging (like the VeriChip), and surprisingly, increasing genetic discrimination whenever they attempt to buy medical products from Big Pharma or medical services from the licensed & overly “regulated” medical doctors. If that wasn’t outrageous enough, casinos and other businesses liberally use CCTV and “neural surveillance” software to identify and analyze so-called “unusual behavior.” The cherry on top for all this corporatism is that credit reports are maintained by a cartel of three firms, and Google might as well be the predecessor to a future hyper-intelligent AI.

Once people have ceded their privacy to these fascistic corporations, the government oh-so-naturally steps in with their boot-on-the-throat infringements against our common liberties. ECHELON is a National Security Agency hub in England which uses pattern recognition software to sort intercepted communications under the auspices of a secret treaty with the British that is the UK-USA Agreement. Driver licensure has been converted to a de facto national identification card, CARNVIORE was an Internet packet sniffer that was eventually replaced by a more insidious corporate version, and the infamous No Fly List inaccurately placed innocent citizens on its roster. FISCs are little else than limp-wristed rubber-stamping whose warrants weren’t even sought by the Bush White House (and which don’t apply to ECHELON, anyway), Moore’s law is used by the military-industrial complex to justify the allocation of federal spending into robotics for such applications as weaponized UAVs and microchip implants, and allegedly “friendly” governments regularly commit espionage against each other. Topping this all off are the numerous satellites in orbit over the planet looking straight down upon the earth’s surface, as well as extraordinary rendition and government-sanctioned torture.

Farren & Gibbs’ Who’s Watching You? The Chilling Truth About the State, Surveillance, and Personal Freedom is an overview of the developments about the police state since the 9/11 event. Although there were similarities in content to Mind Your Own Business, it was nice to see an anthology about what has happened since Bill Clinton left the White House. I think it is fair to say at this point that Americans have found themselves far past the fictional horrors of 1984, and the authors’ contention that the Establishment is pushing us all towards a cyberpunk dystopia is probably all too accurate; however, I vehemently disagree with Farren & Gibbs that such an institutional push is inevitable. For instance, guerrillas have, historically, outmaneuvered their enemies by going low-tech, and I see no reason why that approach wouldn’t work again, especially since it has such a reliable track record (just ask the Amish).

How to Configure & Use OTR Encryption for Instant Messaging on Skype (Mac OSX Tutorial)

Off-the-Record (OTR) is a type of digital instant messaging encryption program. Instant messages (IMs) sent over the Internet, much like email, are akin to postcards, in that any third-party who intercepts them can easily read the contents of each message. Encrypted IMs would be analogous to a letter sealed inside of an envelope; while it is still possible for third-party interception to know whom both the sender & receiver are (that is, the metadata), they cannot read the contents of the IMs themselves. OTR uses end-to-end encryption, much like how PGP uses public key cryptography, without the use of a third party service provider who would otherwise not only be supplying the encryption, but also would be storing your decrypted messages on their server; with end-to-end encryption, its just the two users and the software they’re using between each other.

 

Adium + Skype = OTR encryption

 

While some OTR users would suggest that all IM users must always use OTR for every single IM, this is not always possible, whether because a user needs to communicate with an individual who refuses to use OTR, or because an IM is being sent to a group or public chat room, anyway. You’ll also need to consider how you and your associates will verify each other’s fingerprints, whether that be by encrypted email or VoIP, for instance.

The following tutorial will demonstrate how to configure OTR for the Apple Macintosh operating system using the Skype IM/VoIP service. Any other combination of software and operating systems are not applicable for this particular set of instructions.

 

The OTR Encryption Installation Guide

Before you get started, make sure you first have 1) a reliable Internet connection that doesn’t “time out,” 2) a good browser, such as Firefox, and 3) a Skype handle already configured with your Skype client.

 

Step 1: Download the Adium IM client.

 

Step 2: Download the Skype API plugin.

Skype API plugin

 

Step 3: Configure Adium with your Skype client. Click Adium on the menu bar, then select Preferences. Under the Accounts tab, click the “+” sign at the bottom of the window, select Skype API, and then enter your Skype login details.

Adium Preferences

 

Step 4: Find another individual who has completed the previous steps.

 

Step 5: Initiate an OTR chat with your associate.

 

Step 6: Verify each others’ encryption fingerprints. Write or speak your associate’s fingerprint to him, and once he confirms its accuracy, then your associate repeats this by writing or speaking your fingerprint back to you.

 

Step 7: Disable logging of OTR secured chats.

 

Step 8: Disable notifications of OTR secured chats.

 

Congratulations, you’ve successfully installed OTR; now you can send and receive encrypted IMs. If you’d like additional technical support with installing OTR as per this specific combination of software on a Mac OS, then feel free to send me an encrypted email using my PGP public key with the subject line “OTR Configuration Help” (and don’t forget to pass me your public key first!). If you’d prefer some additional guidance with using Adium’s OTR capability, then I suggest you also read both the Surveillance Self-Defense Project’s “How to: Use OTR for Mac” and Security in a Box’s “Pidgin with OTR” (just for comparison’s sake, if for no other reason).