Secrecy bill broken, internet says, "Oops."

Do you think the secrecy bill is ridiculous? Draconian? Are you worried that it’s going to pass no matter what we do?

In keeping with the ANC’s policy of making laws that don’t work, are unenforceable or don’t focus on the major issues in our country (rape, murder, poverty, crime, corruption etc).  We now have a fairly new entry; the Protection of Information Act.

As much as ordinary citizens and journalists are trying to prevent this bill going through ,there is every likelihood that it will pass anyway as the ANC is pretty strongly for it (See Zapiro’s comic on the “Sheeprecy Bill” here).

 It has been discussed elsewhere(see this blog) that the constitutional court should prevent this bill going through in it’s current form. If that fails or the government modifies the bill to get around the constitutional court but still limit our right to know we need to ask

What can we about this law? Well if it was 1981 (during apartheid) we would be pretty screwed. Journalists were the main source of information (outside of word of mouth). Now however we have this useful thing called the “Internet”, which does amazing things like allow us to release documents anonymously through websites like Wikileaks. Additionally we have anonymous blogs which can write about “confidential” documents on ministers who party with taxpayer’s money. These blogs and documents can all be housed overseas away from South African laws (especially the retarded ones).  If journalists report what a blogger has said about some confidential document, does the government really think it will be able to prosecute that journalist?

 It is virtually impossible to trace someone who has used an annoymizing service like Tor or YourFreedom and Google mail. The SA government would have to petition Google first to get the IP used (which is extremely hard to do as Google tries it’s best to protect your privacy) then they would need to petition the country where the specific Tor or YourFreedom server is. They would have to sue or somehow force these massively powerful services to provide information. As these services product relies on providing a strong anonymous service they will fight tooth and nail to keep you safe. Lastly if they ever get to the internet café you sent it from there should be no record of you even being there (see my first set of steps below).

Another great thing about South Africa is that we have very few fixed IP addresses (the address system of the internet), our IP addresses are changing constantly, which means that again it’s very difficult to trace back to your house/internet or café as 5 minutes down the line someone else has your IP address.

To illustrate how easily one can go about sharing this stuff anonymously I’ve outlined a series of steps. If there are any security flaws in my steps you are welcome to comment/contact me and I’ll edit the steps.

 Step 1: Go to an internet café where there are no cameras or other ways to reveal your indentity. (ensure keylogger software isn’t enabled)

Step 2: Create an anonymous gmail account (Make up information for real name, birth date etc. Do not enter any information that may give you away)

Step 3: Email a selected list of journalists, bloggers and any other relevant people the documents you have found.

Step 4: Delete your gmail account. Delete all classified documents on the computer and in your possession.(ensure this account is in no way linked to any other gmail account you may have.)

OR

Step 1: Stay at home use Tor (prevents people from seeing your location or browsing habits) or YourFreedom(another internet system designed for anonymity) – These only really protect http and https traffic.

Step 2:  Create an anonymous gmail account.

Step 3: Use an anonymous file sharing system like Rapidshare and upload your file(s) to the net (use your fake email add to sign up). Try upload to at least two websites.

Step 4: Go to various forums in South Africa, create an anonymous account and post the link up to the online file on those forums. You could also post to the comments section of some websites. (Like the Mail and Guardian which use the Discus system or the Sowetan) 

Step 5: Delete gmail account and all classified documents in your possession.

Be careful of using your credit card as credit cards = identity. Everything above can be done for free.

What governments need to learn

Governments the world over  must realise that they cannot hide information from their people. As John Grisham, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “The internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” I suggest that all governments, not just South Africa, should try out “transparency” and “accountability” rather than hiding behind the porous shield of secrecy.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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