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Surveillance & Privacy

With all of the talk lately about government surveillance and espionage, I have been asked frequently about my opinion on the matter. Having read a few articles, blog posts, and random ramblings, I’ve been greatly dissapointed in the lack of explanations of what exactly can be monitored, how surveillance actually works, and what people are able to do about maintaining their privacy – so decided to write this up as a quick introduction to the relevant concepts.

Please keep in mind that I myself have a technical background, and I’m attempting to put a lot of complex concepts into an explanation that many (if not most) people will understand. I assume that as a reader you have a basic understanding of computer and networking concepts, and I’ll probably edit this a few times before it’s left alone in a (relatively) final version. If there’s anything that you believe should be elaborated upon, or does not go into enough detail, please feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify and elaborate.

For the purpose of my writing in this document, the entity performing surveillance (or information copy/theft/etc) may be an actual person, multiple people, companies (industrial espionage), governments, law enforcement, anonymous people, activists, jelous significant others, pissed off 13 year olds, or subsets thereof. There is no real distinguishing between “good” and “bad” entities for now. Later on I may write about perspectives, such as those who believe surveillance by law enforcement is a good thing (to catch criminals), or those who believe that any invasion of personal privacy is terrible. For now, I’m going to keep to the neutral perspective that there is a time and a place for everything, and what I believe ultimately doesn’t make a difference in the big picture of your understanding how all this works.