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We are Citizens of a Digital Republic

“If the human is a technological creature, then human rights must include rights in the technological realm. If the human is a social creature, then human rights must protect avenues of social connectedness. “

The oldest stone tools currently described are over 3 million years old.  That is not just older than our species Homo sapiens, it is older than the entire genus Homo.  For as long as human beings have existed we have needed technologies to aid us.  We could afford to lose most of out hair because it could be replaced with fibers and skins, we could afford to lose our fangs only by replacing them with blades of flint or obsidian or copper or iron or steel.  We fueled our inventiveness with the progressive evolution of a powerful brain. It is a brain that is such an energy drain that only foods that have been cooked by fire, another technology, can fully fuel it in its most modern and advanced form.

Without our everyday technologies we are nothing.  Without our clothes we freeze, without our farms or spears or guns we starve.  Without our fire (figurative or literal in the sense of cooked-food-as-brain-food) how could we hope to fuel the creative capacity to create new solutions?

Perhaps even more important than the fact that the human is a technological creature, the human is a social creature.  We speak, we tell stories, we hunt or gather or farm together.  We track lineages and maintain friendships.  When alone in the world we invent imaginary friends, and even in the presence of other humans we speak to pets, to inanimate objects, and to the universe at large as if any of them have the ability to respond in kind – to validate us and cement a social bond.  Human technologies from language grammars to written characters, and to telegraph machines have spurred social connectedness while human socialization on ever larger scales has provided not only the need for technologies, but the capacity to create them through larger and more improbable intellectual collaborations and chains of influence.

I mention these facts to emphasize simple, central truth.  If the human is a technological creature, then human rights must include rights in the technological realm.  If the human is a social creature, then human rights must protect avenues of social connectedness.  Where the technological and the social realms converge, as in the new, thoroughly digital world we share, human rights must be understood in a digital sense and fought for in a digital realm.

We, the Citizens of a Digital Republic, are here to take up that fight.  Our mission is to educate concerned citizens about which of their rights extend into the digital realm and what steps they can take to protect themselves from harm or loss of privacy as a result of harassment, intimidation, hacking, or seizure of devices which store or transfer digital information.  If you would like to attend a workshop on practical, everyday cybersecurity that can help you as a citizen better understand the rights, risks and responsibilities associated with the management of your digital “footprint” please contact us at citizensofadigitalrepublic@gmail.com

 

Signed,

The concerned citizens at CDR

 

 

 

We at CDR are proud members of the Electronic Frontier Alliance and enthusiastically endorse its principles:

Free Expression – The right to speak frankly and openly to those who would like to hear you

Security – The belief that novel technologies should be beneficial and accountable to their users

Privacy – The right to remain anonymous and only share what you would like to share with those with whom you would like to share it

Creativity – The belief that technology can be, is, and must remain a tool for accessing, manipulating and reimagining the ideas and inventions of others

Access to Knowledge – The belief that knowledge should be widely shared and meticulously curated, and that the desire for knowledge should be rewarded (except where it conflicts with another’s right to privacy)

Premier Event Recap!

“We are all already cyborgs. Welcome to the future. It has been this way for 3 million years.”

The 12/10 workshop has now come and gone, and its time for a brief recap.  In the interest of the privacy of all participants only a broad curriculum will be outlined here and only scheduled speakers (as opposed to other participants and group discussants) will be identified by (first) name.

Shahid began by guiding participants through an exercise where they articulated the threats they believed they faced and what measures they could take to defend themselves.  It is worth remembering that cybersecurity is for EVERYONE and all participants had different parts of their lives that they wished to ensure the privacy of and different audiences (adversaries) they feared would be intruding on their privacy.  Personal data, research data, dating profiles, bank account info, everyone had something they wished to protect.  In truth the need for privacy goes beyond Edward Snowden’s famous quote: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”  The truth of the matter is that everyone has some piece of information about themselves that is better not being made public (even if it is just banking details and social security number) and there is always the possibility that any security exploit or backdoor built for the purposes of surveillance could be exploited as easily by hackers or malicious non-state actors.  The concept of scale and herd immunity were also discussed.  Encrypting as many messages as possible makes it hard to tell which messages contain private info and thus reduce the chance of sensitive information being successfully identified, intercepted and decrypted.

This was followed by Devin who gave some brief remarks over lunch on the importance of the digital world to anthropologists and his own work among communities who largely assemble themselves and communicate over the internet.  He closed with a discussion of ethics in researching people on online fora.

Jeff was the third speaker, guiding the participants through a brief summary of recent and pending legislation and the current legal status of domestic digital surveillance.  Details of ongoing controversies and pending legislation as well as suggestions for how to get involved in issues that pertain to you can be found at The X Lab and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Following Jeff, Shahid took the floor again to guide the participants through the installation and use of a number of apps and programs that allow for increased privacy.  A vibrant discussion followed regarding the advantages and disadvantages of various programs and the way that each one met the needs of various participants and their own personal threat profiles.  A simple syllabus for self defense can be found at this link.  For a more detailed raining be sure to come to our next event (TBA).

Tim gave closing remarks introducing the participants to the mission and perspectives of Citizens of a Digital Republic.  While outlined in more detail in the (pinned) first post of this blog the gist was that human rights must include rights in the technological realm and rights to free association and socialization as without our technologies and social networks we cannot truly be human: “We are all already cyborgs. Welcome to the future. It has been this way for 3 million years.”  Participants were encouraged to remember the degree to which their expression of self extended into the symbolic and digital worlds around them and to be mindful of their digital footprints and to speak out in defense of their digital rights.

CDR anticipates that its next public workshop will be held in early January 2017.  Keep an eye on this blog for updates.

Event Announcement: Saturday 12/10/16

Announcing our first event!

Guest Speaker Shahid Buttar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation will address a small audience of concerned citizens, researchers and student activists, educating them on reducing their digital footprints and handling sensitive information on electronic devices.  His talk will address data privacy, risk assessment, and digital rights with an aim towards managing confidential research information, avoiding police confrontations and being a conscientious citizen of the digital world.  In the hands on portion of the event he will also walk attendees through installing and using simple open source programs that will help enhance the user’s online privacy and safety.

Bring a fully charged, internet capable phone or laptop.

Food (pizza) and drink will be provided.

For questions or to inquire about future events (we anticipate this small premier event’s seating cap to be reached quickly) e-mail the organizers at citizensofadigitalrepublic@gmail.com .

Register Here!