[linux-elitists] Privacy project

Brenno J.S.A.A.F. de Winter, wgasa brenno@dewinter.com
Mon Apr 14 02:06:33 PDT 2008

Hi all,

I started an open source project to enhance privacy. A lot is going on 
in Europa (actually the US too) that needs some attention. The whole 
story is below in the original posting. I would like to encourage 
everybody who feels like lurking or joining to mail me: 
brenno@dewinter.com and I'll put you on the list. Of course I won't 
start spamming this list now. This is a one off post and people that 
know me, know also that this is an urgent matter.


Brenno de winter

Dear all,

As promised I would kick-off a mailinglist on privacy in order to build
an open source project. I tried it off-list for some time, but it is
hard to get things going in a direction. So I start over without any
prejudice to technologies or solutions. Let the wisdom of the crowd take
care of the project. You're on the list, because we discussed this and
you wanted to lurk or participate. The list of members is not public, so
if you lurk you are not giving away your identity.

Today I flew back home from the US through London. On the flight from
Heathrow to Amsterdam something remarkable happened: A little girl (I
guess 4 years of age) went to the toilet and when she came out the pilot
was standing there. The door to the cockpit was open. When she came out
the pilot invited her in to have a look. Ten years ago this would not
get any reaction from anybody, but when I saw this I felt so happy:
Common sense is back! A captain that realizes that people should be able
to trust a small kid to a certain extend. I did make sure I told the
crew and they felt the very same about it. For me this underlines the
fundamental point that we are dealing with: we live in a society that
has become distrusting of anything and anybody with ourselves as the
main victim.

*Ground for the project*
In today's world we don't trust anybody and we go to extreme's to
violate the privacy of everybody to get .... a sense of security?
Currently there are some urgent matters that need our attention:

- Europe is implementing a new directive that enforces EU-nations to
create law that stores traffic information on communication we 500+
million Europeans have. So for a period of minimal 6 months we store
who's calling who (or who's attemting too), who's e-mailing who, who was
online and where, who has what IP-address of phonenumber. This is what
we call data retention. This is a big deal since whistle blowers and
journalist have to go to great length in order to do their work without
the government watching them all the time;

- In a similar move the Dutch government (through transportation
companies) is introducing a transportation card that fascilitates all
public transportation. For fiscal reasons this data is stored for seven
years. Unfortunately this has a side effect, since we are building a
database with each movement of humans in our country. We know what bus
they took, where they entered and where they went off. Current laws can
make this information available to police and soon also to secret
services. A similar system is being build for cars so that we can tax
them by the mile.

*The project*
For the data retention there is a lot one can do to circumvent and thus
obsolete the regulations. Of course without breaking the law. There are
a lot of tools that enable us to obtain more privacy. The project aims
to bundle those solutions and make them as broadly accessible as
possible to people as we possibly can.

We aim at two things:
1. Make tools available and as simple as possible;
2. Do knowledge transfer: a lot of people are in the dark on what
happens with data retention and travelling. So we need to tell the story
to the world. I have arranged a lot of action already behind the scenes
so that we will hit news when that is a good moment. I have good hopes
to arrange that very effectively, but we still need to tell a story. So
let's build that. Second anecdote: When I took the train home I ended up
with this guy. We started talking about the chipcard for transportation.
When I explained what was happening on the administrative side he was
visibly shocked and he told me he didn't know. I guess that goes for
many people. Information is key.

I would like to make a couple of suggestions on how we build the project:
1. We use the wisdom of the crowd. Everybody has knowledge let's bundle
2. We play legal. We're not doing anything sneaky or wrong, but we fight
for our civil rights that we need;
3. We act as the KLM-pilot: Use our senses and stop accepting fear as
our keydriver. We're not helping terrorist (they have their toolsets
already), we're helping the people that want secure, reliable
communications and privacy;
4. We're an open group that works together on the same vision. Everybody
can help, everybody can benefit. So bring on everybody that shares our

To get started I'd suggest to think about how one can mail without data
retention restrictions. Any ideas? Anything we need?


Brenno de Winter
Skype: brennodewinter
MSN: brenno@dewinter.com
Jabber: brenno@jabber.org
Twitter: brenno

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