The post-Snowden digital divide: the ability to understand & use privacy tools

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“Journal of Radical Librarianship”

A small group of friends have been collecting out of print and hard to find books for many decades, our little way of preserving what some don’t want you to read. Our hope is that when we are all retired we can put them in a safe place for reading enjoyment. Yes, it was inspired by Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 351”.


I don’t get it.

Making the internet available to the poor, free, is a very important service libraries provide. But exactly how would their experience be enhanced by PGP? Suppose Google can’t track their shopping preferences; they already couldn’t, because those computers have a different user every hour. In fact, the anonymity already provided by public access is so good, when they finally nabbed Dread Pirate Roberts, he was running his show from a public library.

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Scan them. One hard drive can contain a warehouse of books, is easier to carry and easier to copy/share. The best way to preserve something is to have a million copies of it.

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Well, once the FBI has its way with Apple, we won’t have to worry any more about crypto or privacy or any of that stuff…


Suppose someone doesn’t know that logging into their gmail account sends their related session cookies to every other page they visit subsequently. Or they don’t realize that using NoScript could prevent all kinds of trackers from logging their access patterns to be matched by pattern-mining algorithms. Or they don’t understand that using an anonymous machine doesn’t mean their email can’t be read in cleartext. Or they don’t understand that Chrome’s incognito browsing mode only makes them anonymous with regard to their local client side’s history tracking.

when they finally nabbed Dread Pirate Roberts, he was running his show from a public library.

If I was trying to convey that library access provides good anonymity, I don’t think I’d mention the apprehension of Roberts at the library as a supporting argument… it makes exactly the opposite point.


It really doesn’t.

The FBI have claimed that the real IP address of the Silk Road server was found via data leaked directly from the site’s CAPTCHA, but security researchers believe that the PHP login page was manipulated to output its $_SERVER variable and real IP following site maintenance reconfiguration.

The library wasn’t the problem.

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