What power does an individual have to guard against government surveillance?
That’s the question on the minds of many who have joined Reset The Net. The global campaign, aimed at protesting mass Internet surveillance, is set to go live on June 5, a year after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the massive extent of the US government’s global surveillance program.
Evident from those voicing their support as part of the #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade, it would appear that some Internet users are willing and ready to stand up for their rights, a collective call to action to ensure Web privacy.
The campaign is being organized by Fight for the Future, a nonprofit Internet advocacy group. Aside from individual Internet users, the campaign’s supporters range from technology companies such as Google and Reddit to human- and civil-rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In a show of support on Tuesday, Google announced plans for End-to-End, a Chrome extension designed to make e-mail encryption safer and easier for users (and more secure from outside prying eyes). “Check out Reset the Net, a broad coalition of organizations, companies and individuals coming together this week to promote stronger security practices on the web; we’re happy to be a participant in that effort,” reads a recent Google blog post on the topic.
For starters, Reset the Net is urging all participating websites to adopt basic Internet technologies such as HTTPS, HSTS, and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) to make their sites more secure and to prevent the leaking of private keys, which, it became clear, was a very real and possible threat during the recent Heartbleed bug. By encrypting as much Internet traffic as possible, supporters hope to make it increasingly difficult for governments to use weak links in the Web to gain access to users’ information.
Then, in an act of uniform protest, a specialized splash screen is set to go live at midnight on June 5. Other companies and bloggers may add computer code to their websites that will display the special message as a banner to show solidarity in the fight against surveillance. The screen will also display advice on how to ensure Internet privacy.
Simultaneously, Fight for the Future is looking to supporters on social media to create a major Thunderclap on June 5. The social campaign website lets users support an idea or cause and automatically sends out messages to the followers and friends of each backer, amplifying the message.
And yet, the logical question becomes: will this cyber protest work? What effect will it have?
We’ll have to wait until Thursday to begin assessing how it all plays out. But Fight for the Future is no stranger to this kind of mass protest.
It demonstrated its influence two years ago as one of the main grassroots organizations that helped initiate mass Internet protests to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. During those protests, more than 115,000 websites joined in support, users could not access Wikipedia, and Google’s logo briefly went black. As Business Insider reported at the time, Fight for the Future was “the group behind the largest online protest in history.”
At the very least, Reset the Net appears poised to demonstrate the influence that an individual, non-tech-savvy user can have in what is often painted as a David-and-Goliath struggle between everyday people and the mass web of government surveillance.
“You don’t have to be an engineer to join the fight,” Reset the Net urges on its Tumblr page. “We can push companies to do the right thing and vote with our feet, by evangelizing the best secure tools.”