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Re: <nettime> Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Rules for the digital world
Florian Cramer on Tue, 11 Mar 2014 12:59:28 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Rules for the digital world

While I'd like to chime in with Andreas' fact check of Enzensberger's
ten rules:

> For those who aren't nerds, hackers or cryptographers and have
> better things to do than keep up with the pitfalls of digitalization
> every hour, there are ten simple rules to resist exploitation and
> surveillance:

Unlike Andreas, I think that Enzensberger is right and that critical
media activist culture delivered the proof in the pudding when it came
up with the format and name of "Crypto Parties". The implication is,
indeed, that you need to become at least a low-skilled cryptographer
who knows what PGP, SSL and TOR mean and how they are used.

In Rotterdam, on a CryptoParty last Friday at WORM, we just learned
again how difficult it is for contemporary Internet users to even
grasp the concept of a local mail client (like Thunderbird) as opposed
to Web Mail - and that does not even include complex stuff like
PGP encryption and key management. But using Web Mail means, by
definition, that others can read and data mine your correspondence.
And let's not even go into gory details like keeping up with software
vulnerabilities (like the SSL bug in Apple's operating systems or the
very similar GNU-TLS bug from last week). It's fair to say that all
the computer and Internet communication systems we currently use are
fundamentally insecure, and that there are likely only a handful of
systems in the world into which a skilled third party could not break
into to intercept the data stored on or sent from them.

> 1
> If you own a mobile phone, throw it away.

>From a hacker perspective, this is sound advice. Apart from a very
few fringe, mostly not-yet-existing mobile phone operating systems
(such as Phil Zimmerman's Black Phone), all of the existing mobile
phones leak your data. Even a most simple stripped-down mobile phone
constantly broadcasts your location. The technology to intercept calls
and data transfers has become trivially simple (as Danja Vasiliev
and Julian Oliver demonstrated on this year's transmediale festival
in Berlin). Another issue is that smartphones are multi-sensor
devices that broadcast megabytes of data (such as bodily movement via
accelerometers) with their users being aware of it.

> 2
> Whoever offers something for free is suspicious. One should categorically
> refuse anything that passes itself off as a bargain, bonus or freebie.  It's
> always a lie.

I agree with Andreas, but a problem remains that this advice can
involuntarily backfire against ethical free services offered by
non-profits (from free WiFi access at a public library to Open Source

> 3
> Online banking is a blessing, but only for secret services and criminals.

Here, Enzensberger's advice is naive, because banking in these times is
online anyway. If people go to a bank counter instead of homebanking, the
transaction will travel over the same networks (and most likely, the bank
employee will use the same online banking web interface). It also ignores
the data retention and customer tracking built into the international
banking system via, for example, the SWIFT accord between the EU and the

> 4
> Governments and industries want to abolish cash. They would like to get rid
> of a legal tender that anyone can redeem.

This is indeed an important point, and has become a reality in countries
like Sweden. Contrary to common belief and letting aside all other issues
of this payment system, Bitcoin is not a solution for this problem because
all Bitcoin transaction records are publicly visible (as discussed here on
Nettime previously - no need to open this can of worms again). So far, cash
is the only truly anonymous, hard-to-trace payment method.

> 5
> The madness of networking every object of daily use - from toothbrush to
> TV, from car to refrigerator - via the Internet, can only be met with total
> boycott.

The recent news about "smart TVs" spying on its viewers (
v-snooping-but-privacy-questions-remain/) indeed confirm this - and
the news that "smart refrigerators" are now running spam botnets (
rt-of-a-massive-spam-sending-botnet/ ). This is one example of the
term "post-digital" making sense - that in many cases, it's better
that devices are offline than online.

> 6
> The same applies to politicians. They ignore any objection to their actions
> and omissions. They are submissive to the financial markets and don't dare
> to go against the activities of secret services.

No point in arguing with that. Most likely, most of them are in the pockets
of the secret services that have collected compromising information on them.

> 7
> E-Mail is nice, fast and free. So watch out! If you have a confidential
> message or don't want to be surveilled, take a postcard and pencil.

This advice is technologically naive. It's known that the NSA and other
secret services have systematically scanned and collected postal mail meta
data (sender and receiver adresses along with timestamps), postal mail
relies on digital logistics (and digitized meta data) anyway.
Nearly-unreadable handwriting on post cards would not last very long as an
obfuscation device. All the secret service had to do is to run a Captcha
program for the handwriting that would fail OCR.

> 8
> Avoid obtaining goods and services via Internet. Vendors like Amazon, Ebay
> and so on store all data and molest their customers with advertising spam.

Naive advice, again, since your supermarket collects the same information -
either via loyalty discount cards or simply by collecting data from card

> 9
> Just like network television, the big Internet corporations are primarily
> financed by advertising.

This is a naive view as well, or it might at best be true for Google.
Enzensberger fails to understand the system of venture capital
financing in combination with IPOs and stock markets that work as a
global speculative scheme. (In less abstract words: It doesn't matter
whether a company like Facebook will ever make real profits since its
founders, venture capital investors and first-wave stock buyers will
have made billions before the company tanks.) He also excludes the
possibility that selling customer data with third parties, including
law enforcement, intelligence agencies, insurance companies, banks
etc. might already be a major source of revenue for many Internet

> 10
> Networks like Facebook call themselves "social" despite their eagerness to
> treat their customers in the utmost anti-social ways.

Here, Enzensberger sounds like a disgruntled airline customer who
wants his money back after a flight from hell. He misses the point
that nowadays, sites like Facebook exist because of peer pressure for

> friends like this, is a hopeless case. Those who are unfortunate
> enough to be part of such a company, should try to take flight as
> fast as possible. This is not so easy. An octopus won't consent to
> letting his prey escape.

True, since Facebook doesn't delete profile data even after people
have shut down their accounts, and even creates profiles of people who
aren't on Facebook (and don't intend to sign on) based on the social
network information (and uploaded E-Mail address books) of registered
users. This is also true for other web sites such as LinkedIn.

> These simple measures can't solve the political problem that society is
> faced with.

No point arguing with this.

> The sleep of reason will continue to the day when a majority of this
> country's citizens will experience firsthand what has been done to them.
> Perhaps, they will rub their eyes and ask why they let it slip in a time
> when resistance was still possible.

One only needs to ponder what the Hitler government would have been
able to pull off during the Third Reich, on top of everything it
already did, if it had had access to the kind of personal data that
is now stored at Google, Facebook and the NSA, for every citizen in
Germany and the countries occupied in WWII - and even keeping people
outside those territories in check by blackmail.

There's no question that we're living in societies of control and that
the Internet is their infrastructure.


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