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One year of encryption with the Email Self-Defense guide

by Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Jun 05, 2015 06:12 PM
Two years ago today, Edward Snowden tipped the first domino in a chain that led to a historic international conversation about the role of surveillance in modern life. One year ago today, we launched Email Self-Defense, an infographic and guide to encrypting your email with free software to protect your privacy and resist bulk surveillance.

Since then, Email Self-Defense has been translated into ten languages, and our metrics show that tens of thousands of people have used it.

If you've been putting off setting up encryption, or know someone who might like your help setting it up, this anniversary is a great occasion to do it! It only takes about half an hour with the Email Self-Defense guide.

Even if you have nothing to hide, using encryption helps protect the privacy of people you communicate with and makes it harder for surveillance systems to isolate messages sent by those that do need protection, like whistleblowers and activists. By encrypting more of the traffic on the net, we give the surveillance systems more opaque information to sift through.

But the goal of Email Self-Defense is more than just helping people protect their information. It's also about highlighting the crucial role of free software in privacy and security, which has not received the attention it deserves in the media coverage of surveillance reform. No matter what laws governments are eventually able to pass to regulate surveillance programs, access to the source code of the computer systems we are using is crucial if we are to have a fighting chance of understanding and controlling what happens to our data.

Encryption is a critical first step, but to effectively resist bulk surveillance, we also need to build new, decentralized Web systems and work for political change. The FSF most recently joined a coalition to resist efforts to require mandatory backdoors in encryption software and we maintain a surveillance action area on fsf.org. Our founder, Richard Stallman, also describes guidelines for reining in surveillance in some detail on gnu.org.

We're excited to have an intern, Adam Leibson, joining us for the summer to work on encryption- and surveillance-related campaigns. Stay tuned for publications about his work. In the meantime, have fun setting up encryption with Email Self-Defense and share the infographic with your friends. If you want to try out your encryption, you can always send me a message at zak@fsf.org with the public key 6EB2 B137 347E 6F7C DEDC AFF6 82DE 8D64 B509 0AC8.

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