I don’t know what to make of this article. As an information security educator who preaches safe dex (data exchange) and teaches the science and technology of practicing it, I’m heartened to see that the message is finally starting to resonate among the general public.
Or is it?
The cynic in me thinks this is just your typical sanctimonious overreaction to a perceived threat, a demonstration staged more to look hip and in-the-know than to be proactive and responsible. In other words, I fear we’re seeing the equivalent to TSA airport check queues on the Internet now, with people just as willing to fall for such security theater in cyberspace as they are at O’Hare.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s great that there are search options not tied to Google’s big ad revenue machine. I am encouraged that there are encrypted chat tools like Cryptocat. I’m somewhat frightened by the idea that people are holding “cryptoparties“, but that’s primarily because I don’t like geek bandwagons dulling my nerdier-than-thou cachet.
But surely this fervor is short-lived and limited to a few people who want to look smarter and more hip than the rest of us, right?
When Google Plus arrived on the scene as the alternative to Facebook. I recall bold proclamations like “I’m done with Facebook” and “Google Plus is so much better than Facebook” and “Have you tried the Hangouts?” and “Facebook’s days are numbered.” I was just as excited as everybody else, because Google Plus was so shiny and pretty in its primary-color exuberance.
Fast forward to now. Who uses Google Plus today? A few nerds who didn’t have a lot of Facebook friends to begin with. When everybody you know is using something else, the retracting pull is too strong to stay away for long.
None of these NSA-unfriendly tools are shiny and pretty. None of them are Google Plus. They are cool in the sense that they just seem so “in your face, snooping NSA”. But is that the kind of cool that lasts?
With nobody on your secret-squirrely GeekLibretto to like my status updates, your cryptoparty is going to get really lame really fast. I’m going to leave, and I’ll take my pretty friends with me.
After all, the NSA is holding a far cooler party, and it’s just a click away.