Our Men In Black are a lot less scary than those in Iran
Encryption software is readily available
, even as iPhone apps
. But it doesn't have the extra step of working when the Internet and cellular networks have been turned off.
There is an effort to make software that I describe illegal
. This would also make Skype and most other P2P software illegal, in their present form.
I don't believe in backdoors in open source encryption. It's not black magic: other nerds can read the source code and see how it works. They would have to be very subtle, like messing up the random number generator, but the problem with that is that other people see when someone else makes changes. The way to compromise a computer is through the hardware or closed source operating system. I'm sure if the NSA asked, that Apple, Microsoft, or Intel would not refuse a few lines here or there. Hell, I could probably do something in a video chip to compromise a computer. Gibson's idiocy
aside, STUXNET proves that governments have access to operating system source code, can compromise certificate authorities, and have nerds smart enough to put this together.
And, to be honest, if there was a way to add a backdoor to my software for the NSA, and not, say, Saudi Arabia, China, or Iran, well, I would. It's not perfect, but I think we have to know whose side we are on. If they want a back door in all iPhones, I'm guessing one is already buried in the iOS encryption stack. Although I've just read Robert Baer's book
and feel the CIA is a lot more like the DMV than I expected or want. We can only hope that the NSA is more competent.
Yes, I like the PirateBox. It is a step in a decentralized direction I think computing should go, for the people. Battery power is going to be a problem for a long time, and this limits the processing power of our mobile devices. This means we have to shift computation to the cloud, and I like a future where there are local cloud nodes built into every WiFi network. There are important performance reasons why you want a cloud node in your house, but it also gives people more control over their own data, because they can then inspect what is in their own box and control who has access to it. Under current US law, data in your house needs a warrant, data in the cloud does not. Your iPad, iPhone, or whatever in the future, can then instruct the app running on Amazon Web Services to replicate a piece of itself to run on your multi-processor WiFI router (or equivalent) and power your processor intensive augmented reality app that lets you cheat at Scrabble or have virtual sex with your Russian girlfriend. If the data lives in your house, then it's easy for people to understand, and make, a system where they own it.
The funny part is that breaking net neutrality, for the telecom companies to try and loot the Internet at this early stage, will motivate decentralized local networks (for people in urban areas) and sneaker net (for rural folks) technology that will, in some ways, be better for our society. Imagine Netflix being shut out by the last mile monopolies, and making a local Roku type box with two terabytes of storage, which joins a distributed ad-hoc WiFi net with your neighbors, or that plugs into your car and P2P transfers data as you commute.
Anyways, I am going to try and make this app to help people not be tortured. It's really all I can do to help. I am going to open source the entire thing, and try to make the off-grid networking layer something that, say, a New York Times iPhone APP, or Twitter, or Al-Jazeera, or whomever, can just add to their software. So if they ever decide to add a 'Upload photo to our newsroom' or 'Send message to our newsroom' type button to their apps, their software will be that much more powerful and safe for people to use. I also hope to make an Android version, so that, hopefully, other people will get the idea, and folks living in fascist states could make new versions of normal programs with these features hidden-- swipe your fingers a certain way in the Tetris app, and a young Iranian can honestly social network with her friends without worrying that the religious police are monitoring them.