The Longest Now

Designing life for episodic tyranny | 2: Social networks
Saturday November 12th 2016, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For background, see also Part 1: Secure toolchains


Imagine a Stasinario: while in a Tier 3 environment, you expect your social networks to be subverted, with people pressured to report on one another, and casual gatherings discouraged or explicitly outlawed.  Your contact with local colleagues and neighbors is always tinged with the certainty that eventually, one of them will report on the others, if only to stay out of trouble themselves. 
Assume that a few community members will be willing informants, and that everyone else would rather not inform, but will periodically be questioned by an adversary trying to prevent organizing or information-passing of any kind.  When questioned, you will be punished for sharing any information that can be shown to be false.  What sorts of preparation can you make in advance, for both offline and online gatherings? [Input needed from people facing this in closed systems, and in heavily-monitored activist movements.]

Social design options

1. Make gathering information more expensive.  Add plausible noise to the system; report frequently rather than rarely?  

2.  Human ddos/noise: instead of LOIC [Anons], have collective noise generation pointed at some unethical public db or data-collection.  1) setting your devices to signal to such networks; 2) sending your info / generating random info to send there; 

  2a. For human / minority-tracking databases:  blacklists, registering refugees, or migrants from specific regions/religions.  Consider self-registration, auto-registration of valid-looking but random identities.
 2b. Try SETI@Home style noise, where a large number of devices compute/produce small amounts of signal sent out along a given channel
3.  Social steganography? Embed real discussions among a few friends with lots of chatbots? so it’s hard to know which comments are real to find participants to trace or lean on.  [Or even change which apparent participant in a channel is the real person communicating, over time].  Possibly not helpful if subversion happens at the human level using the tapped-in comms device.
4.  Find ways to confound tracking and data-tracing.
 4a. Make mixing (or air-gap) services widely / anonymously available 
 4b.  Fake geo-tag generation. Fake GPS data from a group of users’ phones so it can’t be seen that they are all gathering together. Emit randomized (but logical) GPS coordinates when requested if turned on. ++
5.  Randomized salting of communication, to provide plausible deniability for those who pass on wrong information, and to spot-check members of a group for currently being a leak.
Ex: Encrypted group chat has pairwise encryption now.  No guarantee you get the same message as someone else in the group?  You could implement round-robin disinformation where one member of a group chat gets different info than the rest [and you could randomly select who gets bad info to see if outsiders sweep in / show up at the wrong place]
6.  Signalling: Be open about some of the above preparation, so that all parties know there are less certain returns on relying on such information.  Share how to build a system like this [specifics?] that anyone can adopt unilaterally without active coordination.
7.  Open books: imagine ways to share access to your toolchain to friends, self-surveillance to let everyone observe there is no or limited collaboration with dangerous parties.
8.  Collective multi-national insurance? to offset risks of a bubble of tyranny in one place: a pool that will help you relocate, find jobs/home in another jurisdiction…  Similarly: flesh out details of potential future costs, currently handled by the public, that might become individual costs under f – in case you have to start paying for them yourself.
   8a.  Related: collective libersurance: investing in a libertarian solution, that stops relying on government to provide those shared services (EPA protection, health insurance, &c) : leaving less on the table for a governmental shift to distort.
   8b.  Counterpoint: you might be prevented from doing this? if the government is explicitly propping up one industry (coal) over another.  Gov occupies a bunch of fields that individuals can’t use.
9.  Reduce reliance on your region’s infrastructure. Practice living through blackouts, emphasize taking your gadgets off-grid on a regular basis, ensuring they still work.  Ditto for plumbing.
10.  Preserve mulinational free-trade zones, black markets, networks outside of national jurisdictions, not as terribly large or strong, but with reasonable burst capacity and robust to crushing.  So that there is always a functioning side channel.  [Ex: ?? falls in Lat Am, Kowloon City]

Related ideas

1. Fix security holes in current distributed communication.
  1a.  Metadata about who’s using what network and when is still sharable;  WeChat is not very secure – even being in a channel can make you guilty and rounded up.  IPFS is great as far as it goes, but their routing mechanism still shows the node-interconnection-graph, which as with bittorrent can show who seeds/shares/acts as a hub.
  1b.  Iterated/ decentralization? needed.  A mostly-decentral system with central elements can be more vulnerable than a robustly-central system that acknowledges this as a weakness and prepares for it. 
2. Consider multinational/extranational decision-making and stakeholding, so no core stakeholder group can be entirely dominated by a central national actor
3. Keep doing this work transparently and publicly.  Increase security for discussing & updating & suggesting new ideas. 

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