Privacy and Anonymity on the Modern Internet

The current online atmosphere, in which government-sponsored surveillance, data collection and sale by private companies and politically motivated attacks have become the norm, has spurred a renewed interest in many corners of the Internet in privacy and anonymity. The people behind The Crypto Project are working to provide some of the necessary tools for protecting communications and activities online.

The current online atmosphere, in which government-sponsored surveillance, data collection and sale by private companies and politically motivated attacks have become the norm, has spurred a renewed interest in many corners of the Internet in privacy and anonymity. The people behind The Crypto Project are working to provide some of the necessary tools for protecting communications and activities online.

In the second part of an email interview, Sir Valiance, one of the leaders of The Crypto Project, discusses the projects lineage, the role of online anonymity in today’s climate and the ways in which volunteers can help with the project. You can read part one of the interview here.

Threatpost: Is The Crypto Project related to the cypherpunks movement?

Sir Valiance: The Crypto Project is not related to any other
group.  There are those who may have been
participants in the orignal Cypherpunk mailing lists or can be found on the
Wikipedia page of Cypherpunks, but for the most part the group is a loose
association security professionals, developers, cryptographers, and activists. 

How do you define a cypherpunk?  In one member’s opinion – it is a title that
must be given to you – not one taken.  If
you accept that, then we have several cypherpunks who visit us on IRC and we
work with, but to claim affiliation would be presumptuous.  We take a great deal of inspiration from the
cypherpunks and other groups, and would be honored to eventually be considered
part of the movement.

Threatpost: What role do you think anonymity should play online?

Sir Valiance: In every society, people carry multiple ‘identities’.
Depending on the current social environment, we behave differently, accentuate
certain characterics over others. Reputation in one group might even contradict
reputation in a different group (peers vs. parents, officials etc.). The ‘self’
is a combination of all our identities, and most of us decide to share
ourselves selectively, based on self determination. Anonymity is the only
adequate mechanism to offer such self determination.

Forcing an individual to reveal their identity is a
method of control and creates “order”.  It ties their perceived actions and
communication to that name and identity. 
Actions and communication that are perceived as wrong, counter-cultural,
or go against “order” and authority, are looked down upon by the
enforcing culture, regime, or society. 
Records, history, and identity can be used to segregate and create fear
for those who go against the establishment. 
Because of that fear, controlling forces can abuse that power to
suppress and prevent those who wish to act against it. The more we live our
lives digitally, the harder it is to escape our records.

I currently do work on The Crypto Project pseudonymously,
but because of the current practices of most businesses, I have come to accept
that I must give up some of that freedom to allow for the success of the
project by revealing identifying information. 
Without the freedom of pseudonymity/anonymity, The Crypto Project would
not exist.  Not because of the type of
work or legality, but because of my self-conscious nature.  I would not have had the courage to put
myself out there to explore an idea I truly believe in or have the confidence
to discuss openly and work with the brilliant people I work with. By using
pseudonymity, I have discovered a way to allow myself to act freely, explore,
and create.

It is easy to discount the freedom of anonymity by
associating it with trolls, malicious hackers, and pedophiles but we cannot
forget all those out there who need it to get help, to act on what is right, or
even to survive. For every malicious
anonymous user, there are the thousands that use it for good.  Let us not forget the rape victim who hopes
to report or get help anonymously, or the suicidal human being looking for someone,
anyone to connect to and help them feel less alone, or the dissident caught in
an authoritarian regime who needs to speak out for the crimes against humanity
and fight for their rights, or the company whistleblower who could lose
everything for reporting the ethical violations they see. We cannot let those in power or oppressors
use fear for control. Anonymity,
security, and privacy allows individuals to escape that fear and act against
it.

Look no further than the http://my.nameis.me/
project to read dozens of real-world arguments for Pseudonymity and
Anonymity.  Abuse Survivors, models,
refugees, teachers, minorities of all sorts, whistleblowers – the list goes on
and on.  If anonymity were not an option
for people to choose, the newspaper would read considerably differently.

Threatpost: How can potential volunteers get involved and what kind of skills and experience do you need?

Sir Valiance: The best way to get involved is to join in on IRC, edit
or add content to the website, set up a guide, or just ask us how you can help
and we will let you know! The size of our network and the services we run will
be directly proportional to the amount of funding we receive, so please donate
at https://crypto.is/interact/money/.  Individuals can also setup and run their own
servers and services. The week of August
22-26 [was] our “Five to the Fifth Event”, where in 5 days we setup 5
servers, 5 services, 5 guides to follow and setup the services, and 5
automation scripts.  At the end of the
week, once the scripts and guides [were] published, we hope that users can easily
follow the guides and scripts to setup services of their own. Also, developers can simply work on the
software of their choice and we will help promote it or find others to
coordinate and join in on.  There are
many ways, so just show an interest and we will find a way for you to help!

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