The Herald Bulletin

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October 13, 2013

Growing backlash to government surveillance

SAN JOSE, Calif. — From Silicon Valley to the South Pacific, counterattacks to revelations of widespread National Security Agency surveillance are taking shape, from a surge of new encrypted email programs to technology that sprinkles the Internet with red flag terms to confuse would-be snoops.

Policy makers, privacy advocates and political leaders around the world have been outraged at the near weekly disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs.

"Until this summer, people didn't know anything about the NSA," said Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University co-director Amy Zegart. "Their own secrecy has come back to bite them."

Activists are fighting back with high-tech civil disobedience, entrepreneurs want to cash in on privacy concerns, Internet users want to keep snoops out of their computers and lawmakers want to establish stricter parameters.

Some of the tactics are more effective than others. For example, Flagger, a program that adds words like "blow up" and "pressure cooker" to web addresses that users visit, is probably more of a political statement than actually confounding intelligence agents.

Developer Jeff Lyon in Santa Clara, Calif., said he's delighted if it generates social awareness, and that 2,000 users have installed it to date. He said, "The goal here is to get a critical mass of people flooding the Internet with noise and make a statement of civil disobedience."

University of Auckland associate professor Gehan Gunasekara said he's received "overwhelming support" for his proposal to "lead the spooks in a merry dance," visiting radical websites, setting up multiple online identities and making up hypothetical "friends."

And "pretty soon everyone in New Zealand will have to be under surveillance," he said.

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