Of Envelopes and Solidarity

I remember sending these guys $10 back in 1994, just as I was getting onto the web. Back then, the hot topic was the Clipper Chip — I wrote a paper about it for a class I was taking in Hilo — and Phil Zimmerman‘s PGP was the cool new toy.

Since then, the importance of personal privacy has grown just as fast as the number of people getting online. As the amount of data flying around has increased, so has the government’s interest in snooping. Sure, businesses are getting cocky with information too (and I suppose turnabout is fair play), but given the present… political climate, I’m thinking more about privacy from the “civil liberties” angle rather than that of “consumer rights.”

So, although nothing is 100 percent secure, and although humans remain the weakest point in any chain, I’ve started playing with PGP again. While it’s gone corporate, there’s still a free version offered as well as open source alternatives. I’ve updated my public keys on various open keyservers and also posted it online. I’ve only found three people I know who still have keys, let alone use them, but that’s fine. I still have a lot to learn myself.

I’m about as exposed online as anyone could be, true. And I’m certainly no secret agent. (Of course, you’d expect me to say that if I was. Hmm.) But I think about Phil’s well-worn postcard analogy. And then I think about John Ashcroft. I figure it couldn’t hurt to be more aware, if not active, and — in a small way — spread the word. So if you want to learn with me, and perhaps trade a brownie recipe or two while imagining an FBI agent somewhere getting nervous, let me know.

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