Tag Archives: Freedom of the Press Foundation

Interview with Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project

lison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project
Alison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project

About the Library Freedom Project, the ACLU, and Tor

The Library Freedom Project (LFP), along with its partners the ACLU and the Tor Project, provides trainings for library communities, teaching people their rights under the law, and how to find and use free and open source, privacy protective technologies.

Alison spoke at this year’s Aaron Swartz Day event (video, transcript).

LFP had a bit of excitement last summer, when it and the Tor Project worked with the Kilton Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to set up a Tor relay. Those who run Tor relays are providing a public service, as Tor is a free, open network that helps people defend against mass surveillance by providing them anonymity online. Tor depends on thousands of volunteers who run “relays” (computer servers that support the Tor network).

Libraries are ideal locations to host Tor relays, because they are staunch supporters of intellectual freedom and privacy, and because they provide access to other essential internet services. This was the spirit behind the Kilton Library seeking to become one of the many nodes in Tor’s worldwide internet freedom system.

Tor is used by human rights activists, diplomats, journalists, government officials, and anyone else who values privacy. For instance, Journalists in repressive countries use it to publish their work without fear of government surveillance, censorship or prosecution. Domestic violence survivors use it, so that they cannot be tracked by former partners. People in African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa use it to report poaching of endangered animals without fear of retribution.

Human Rights Watch recommends Tor for human rights advocates in their report about censorship in China. Reporters without borders suggests that journalists and bloggers all over the world should use Tor to keep themselves and their sources safe.

Tor was originally developed by the US Navy, and still gets funding from the State Department, as it is used by many high officials in the US Government.

When LFP announced the Tor relay project at the Kilton Library, that project received popular media attention and overwhelming community support. Then, in mid-August (2015), the Boston office of the Department of Homeland Security contacted the Portsmouth and Lebanon Police Departments, to warn them, falsely, that Tor’s primary use is to aid and abet criminal activity. In the face of this Federal Law Enforcement pressure, the Kilton Library shut down the project.

The kind of pre-emptory thought crime was disturbing to say the least. LFP compared the move to shutting down public parks for fear that crimes might be committed there in the future. This Kilton Letter, published by LFP, on September 2, provides a more thorough explanation of what took place and why. The letter was signed by members of the ACLU, The Tor Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Luckily, the Lebanon Board of Trustees had a change of heart, as explained in the Valley News article, Despite Law Enforcement Concerns, Lebanon Board Will Reactivate Privacy Network Tor at Kilton Library:

The Lebanon Library Board of Trustees let stand its unanimous June decision to devote some of the library’s excess bandwidth to a node, or “relay,” for Tor, after a full room of about 50 residents and other interested members of the public expressed their support for Lebanon’s participation in the system at a meeting Tuesday night.

“With any freedom there is risk,” library board Chairman Francis Oscadal said. “It came to me that I could vote in favor of the good … or I could vote against the bad. “I’d rather vote for the good because there is value to this.”

Interview with Alison Macrina

Lisa:  So the good guys won in Kilton! Is the Tor relay still up and going strong?

Alison: Quick note: we won in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The name of the library is Kilton Library, of the Lebanon Libraries. And yes, the board and community decided unanimously to keep the relay online. Chuck McAndrew, the IT librarian, recently turned it from a non-exit into an exit, so we’re going to write a blog post soon detailing the success of the pilot and encouraging other libraries to get on board.

Lisa: Can other libraries contact you about setting up their own Tor relay?

Alison: Yes, they can contact us at exits@libraryfreedomproject.org for all the information and supporting materials they might need. We have a questionnaire for them to fill out regarding their network details. And then we can schedule a time for us to do a site visit.

Lisa: What is your advice to Librarians who are thinking about setting up a Tor relay, that might be getting pressured by their local law enforcement to not do so?

Alison: We can’t guarantee that law enforcement won’t try to halt other libraries from participating in this project, but we can use Kilton Library’s example in case such a thing happens again. If law enforcement pressures another library, we will do what we did in Lebanon — rally a network of global support to stand behind the library and urge them to continue their participation in the project. We think that our overwhelming victory at Kilton shows us that we’ll be victorious at other libraries, should it come to that.

Lisa: So there’s nothing inherently criminal about using Tor any more than there is something inherently criminal about using the Internet?

Alison: Not at all! Privacy-enhancing technologies like Tor are
perfectly legal. Tools like Tor are also the best ways to protect
ourselves against government and corporate surveillance. By using and promoting Tor Browser and running Tor relays, libraries can help
ordinary people protect their privacy and other basic civil rights.

Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project, spoke at this year’s Celebration of Hackers and Whistleblowers, on November 7th, and also gave a two-hour tutorial on Sunday morning, at the Privacy-enabling Mini-Conference, on November 8th.

 

Come to the Aaron Swartz Day Privacy-enabling Mini-Conference

RSVP for the privacy-enabling conference, November 7 and 8, in San Francisco, at the Internet Archive.

The SF Hackathon will be going on downstairs, where Garrett Robinson will be there, in person, with other folks from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, working on SecureDrop.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the “Great Room,” there will be a Privacy-enabling Software Conference that starts at the very beginning, for folks that are savvy enough to know they need encryption, but kind of don’t know where to start.

Again: this encryption and privacy-enabling training starts at the very beginning — with the folks from Keybase, who will be providing both a beginning and an advanced tutorial for folks who are just starting out:

10 AM: Session 1:
* Motivation: why encryption, what is public/private key encryption, and why is secure public key distribution important.
* The Keybase solution: social media proofs, client/server architecture,etc.
* Step through generating a key and installing Keybase
* Using Keybase via the website (https://keybase.io)

Break 10:50am-11:10am

11:10 AM Session 2 (advanced):
* Why you probably shouldn’t use Keybase via the website
* Using Keybase on the command line (or native app)
* Using Keybase with an email client
* Looking up public keys using Tor
* Preview of the Keybase File System

Lunch 11:50am-1pm

At 1pm, Cooper Quintin, Staff Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will talk about the what, where, and how of Privacy Badger, EFF’s privacy-enhancing creepy-tracker-blocking browser extension. Come learn how you’re being tracked online, and how you can use Privacy Badger to take back your privacy as you browse the web.

At 2pm, Micah Lee, of The Intercept and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, will be giving his “Encryption for Journalists” workshop, so that journalists, librarians, researchers, or anyone else needing to, can protect their sources from prying eyes.

At 3pm, Micah Lee will cover using Onionshare and SecureDrop.

At 4pm, Brad Warren, a Let’s Encrypt Developer, will present Let’s Encrypt, a joint project between the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Akami, Cisco, the University of Michigan, and open-source developers around the world. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated Certificate Authority which anyone can use to quickly, easily, and securely set up HTTPS on their website in minutes–and the best part is you don’t even need to be a cryptographer or an experienced sysadmin to use it! In his talk, Brad will explain why setting up HTTPS is so difficult without Let’s Encrypt, how Let’s Encrypt is different, and how you can use Let’s Encrypt to secure your website and help bring the world one step closer to a completely encrypted web.

On Sunday, Alison Macrina, librarian and privacy activist and the director of the Library Freedom Project (a partnership among librarians, technologists, and privacy experts that helps people take back their privacy in an age of pervasive surveillance.will offer some solutions to help subvert digital spying) will be presenting from 11am-1pm (with a break from 11:50-12:10):

Come learn about strategies for keeping your information safe from government and corporate surveillance! Alison will teach basic concepts in information security, and cover tools like Tor Browser, NoScript, passphrase management, safer searching, encrypted texting and other mobile security strategies, and more.

Lunch from 1-2pm

At 2pm, Zaki Manian from Restore the 4th will be presenting an introductory tutorial to using Tor Anonymity System on desktop and mobile computers. He will cover the Tor security model and practical application choices to make.

At 3pm, Zaki will give a developer-level talk on “the care and feeding of Tor hidden services.”

RSVP for the privacy-enabling conference.

And be sure to come to the evening event.

Congrats to Citizen Four’s Oscar Win! Ed Snowden’s Statement via the ACLU

Congratulations to Laura Poitras and her team for winning an Oscar for Best Documentary! Her film is truly unprecedented.

academy awards newLaura lists SecureDrop (the whistleblower submission platform originally developed by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen) in the credits of tools she used during the making of Citizen Four.

citizen four

Ed Snowden is legally represented by the ACLU. (See his statement on the film winning here, and also reprinted below.) He is  on the Board of Directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the organization that picked up SecureDrop’s development, at Kevin Poulsen’s request, after Aaron’s death.

Garrett Robinson, Lead Developer of SecureDrop, presented at last year’s Aaron Swartz Day (video). Here’s a relevant interview with Garrett Robinson from last year about why SecureDrop is so important for a functioning democracy.

The purpose of SecureDrop is to provide a secure, anonymous platform where citizens can upload information to a news organization, but without having to potentially put their whole life at risk in the process. There are now 15 SecureDrop implementations all over the world!

Here’s the ACLU press release:

Edward Snowden Congratulates Laura Poitras for Winning Best Documentary Oscar for Citizenfour

The following is a statement from Edward Snowden provided to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents him:

“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, had this reaction:

“Laura’s remarkable film has helped fuel a global debate on the dangers of mass surveillance and excessive government secrecy. The ACLU could not be more delighted that she has been recognized with an Academy Award.”

The ACLU’s petition asking President Obama to grant clemency to Snowden is at:
https://www.aclu.org/secure/grant_snowden_immunity

Information on government spying is at:
https://www.aclu.org/nsa-surveillance

Help Protect The Next Aaron Swartz (ACLU Petition)

 

Just Added: Trevor Timm for Q & A with Brian Knappenberger After Saturday’s Event and Screening

trevor_FPFJust when I think that things couldn’t be any more exciting for Saturday Night’s event!

Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation’s co-founder and Executive Director, has just agreed to appear with Brian Knappenberger, Director of “The Internet’s Own Boy” for  Q & A after the screening at the Internet Archive Saturday night. (Host Lisa Rein will moderate.)

Trevor writes a weekly column for The Guardian and has also contributed to The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Harvard Law and Policy Review, PBS MediaShift, and Politico.  In 2013, he received the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award for journalism.