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"Our Most Paranoid Friends Were Completely Right": NSA Surveillance of Activists

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We now know just how much of what happens on or near the internet is being cataloged by our government (basically, everything). Environmental activists have a history of drawing the attention of the surveillance-minded, especially if they are working in landscapes - forests, tar sands - that are financially valuable to someone.

I've been asking people to connect these dots. Some of the most interesting answers came from Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and co-founder of the international news blog Global Voices. As someone who works with activists around the world, Zuckerman has a unique take on the social and technological aspects of living under surveillance. He talked with me recently about how changes in the technological landscape have forced changes in privacy strategies.

Q. Were you at all surprised by the documents leaked by Edward Snowden? 

A.
Yes. And then recently we had the NSA revelations where we basically found out that our most paranoid friends were completely right, and that the worst scenarios that any of us could have imagined turned out to be true.

So there has been a really panicky moment in the security space. Even the most hyper-hyper technical and hyper-paranoid folks are having a great deal of trouble securing themselves.     

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