Resnick: Okay, so one thing I’ve heard more than once at meetings when security culture comes up is that … well, there’s a sense that too much precaution grows into (or comes out of) paranoia, and paranoia breeds mistrust—and all of it can be paralyzing and lead to a kind of inertia. How would you respond to something like that?
Appelbaum: The people who that say that—if they’re not cops, they’re feeling unempowered. The first response people have is, whatever, I’m not important. And the second is, they’re not watching me, and even if they were, there’s nothing they could find because I’m not doing anything illegal. But the thing is, taking precautions with your communications is like safe sex in that you have a responsibility to other people to be safe—your transgressions can fuck other people over. The reality is that when you find out it will be too late. It’s not about doing a perfect job, it’s about recognizing you have a responsibility to do that job at all, and doing the best job you can manage, without it breaking down your ability to communicate, without it ruining your day, and understanding that sometimes it’s not safe to undertake an action, even if other times you would. That’s the education component.
So security culture stuff sounds crazy, but the technological capabilities of the police, especially with these toolkits for sale, is vast. And to thwart that by taking all the phones at a party and putting them in a bag and putting them in the freezer and turning on music in the other room—true, someone in the meeting might be a snitch, but at least there’s no audio recording of you.
Part of informed consent is understanding the risks you are taking as you decide whether to participate in something. That’s what makes us free—the freedom to question what we’re willing to do. And of course it’s fine to do that. But it’s not fine to say, I don’t believe there’s a risk, you’re being paranoid, I’m not a target. When people say that they don’t want to take precautions, we need to show them how easy it is to do it. And to insist that not doing it is irresponsible, and most of all, that these measures are effective to a degree, and worth doing for that reason. And it’s not about perfection, because perfection is the enemy of “good enough.”
I would encourage people to think about the activity they want to engage in, and then say, Hey, this is what I want to do. Work together collaboratively to figure out how to do that safely and securely, but also easily without needing to give someone a technical education. Because that’s a path of madness. And if people aren’t willing to change their behaviors a little bit, you just can’t work with them. I mean that’s really what it comes down to. If people pretend that they’re not being oppressed by the state when they are literally being physically beaten, and forced to give up retinal scans, that’s fucking ridiculous. We have to take drastic measures for some of these things.
Full interview from nplusone mag: