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Archive From Youth Voices — Surveillance and Anonymity

Published April 14, 2016

I was incredibly fortunate to have taken an AP English class during my senior year of high school. In this class, we analyzed and discussed a variety of books ranging from Robert Reich’s Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future to George Orwell’s 1984. But more than the rich curriculum of literature we studied I’m thankful for the writing we did in the later part of the course.

The teacher who taught the course was taking part in an experimental program, in collaboration with English teachers from other high schools throughout the country, to give high school seniors exposure to digital writing and publishing. In order to complete their writing assignments, students would publish prompted writing to http://www.youthvoices.net/ and use the platform to give feedback to other students on their writing. Shortly after graduating I got an email from the service alerting me that they were changing domains and the version I used for class was going to be archived. In the spirit of preserving my published writing from the service, below is one of the prompted articles I wrote.

The original post can be found on Archive.org.


This past week my class and I have been challenged to use the EBSCO Research Database for a topic of our choice; using EBSCO I have discovered many interesting things about my topic — encryption and governments’ role in it. EBSCO brought forth many articles on the issue of encryption as a whole, however, its most interesting so far have discussed encryptions role in keeping anonymous and preventing online tracking from your government and other governments around the world.

The first paper, written by Joan Feigenbaum and Bryan Fork, titled “Seeking Anonymity in An Internet Panopticon” illustrated the Tor network, how it is used, and how it may possible by abused or infiltrated by those who wish to do it harm. The Tor network allows users with specially written programs to access the internet anonymously. This is done through a series of proxies obscuring your true location and identity. You may initiate your connection in the United States but upon entering the Tor network your connection could go through any number of countries before arriving in its final destination.

This is made possible through a network of “exit nodes” which are hosted, free of charge, around the world; these nodes are what supply the Tor network with access to the global Internet and allow you to mask your connection’s location as the exit node’s location. Tor software also takes numerous other steps to ensure that your connection and information remain encrypted and protected. The paper by Feigenbaum and Fork show that the Tor network could be infiltrated and monitored if a majority of exit nodes on the network are made to monitor you.

A government with wishes of monitoring its citizens on the Tor network would have to create Tor nodes around the world designed to surveil in order to monitor. The paper finishes with a warning stating that distributed attempts to create anonymous efforts are only effective if the users of those networks allow them to become saturated by those who wish to do the network harm.

The second paper, written by Bryan Glick, titled “Government Must Build Trust Over Privacy” shows the same concern for government reach into technology. The paper begins with an observation from the author noticing as governments increase attempts to surveil their citizens’ technology communities will increase their attempts to protect themselves. After this observation the author explains the United Kingdom’s promise not to demand backdoors be created in devices, weakening their privacy, however still expects technology companies to fulfill warrants and their requests for information.

However there exists an issue here, incredibly strong — end-to-end — encryption makes it impossible for companies to fulfill these requests creating issues for governments and law enforcement agencies alike.

Sources

FEIGENBAUM, JOAN, and BRYAN FORD. “Seeking Anonymity In An Internet Panopticon.” Communications Of The ACM 58.10 (2015): 58–69. Computer Source. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. https://via.hypothes.is/http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2015/10/192387-seeking-anonymity-in-an-internet-panopticon/fulltext

Glick, Bryan. “Government Must Build Trust Over Privacy.” Computer Weekly (2016): 13. Computer Source. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/editors-blog/2016/01/the-governments-patrician-appr.html