Entries Tagged "Aaron Swartz"

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SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower support system, originally written by Aaron Swartz and now run by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The first instance of this system was named StrongBox and is being run by The New Yorker. To further add to the naming confusion, Aaron Swartz called the system DeadDrop when he wrote the code.

I participated in a detailed security audit of the StrongBox implementation, along with some great researchers from the University of Washington and Jake Applebaum. The problems we found were largely procedural, and things that the Freedom of the Press Foundation are working to fix.

Freedom of the Press Foundation is not running any instances of SecureDrop. It has about a half dozen major news organization lined up, and will be helping them install their own starting the first week of November. So hopefully any would-be whistleblowers will soon have their choice of news organizations to securely communicate with.

Strong technical whistleblower protection is essential, especially given President Obama’s war on whistleblowers. I hope this system is broadly implemented and extensively used.

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 7:15 AMView Comments

Commenting on Aaron Swartz's Death

There has been an enormous amount written about the suicide of Aaron Swartz. This is primarily a collection of links, starting with those that use his death to talk about the broader issues at play: Orin Kerr, Larry Lessig, Jennifer Granick, Glenn Greenwald, Henry Farrell, danah boyd, Cory Doctorow, James Fallows, Brewster Kahle, Carl Malamud, and Mark Bernstein. Here are obituaries from the New York Times and Economist. Here are articles and essays from CNN.com, The Huffington Post, Larry Lessig, TechDirt, CNet, and Forbes, mostly about the prosecutor’s statement after the death and the problems with plea bargaining in general. Representative Zoe Lofgren is introducing a bill to prevent this from happening again.

I don’t have anything to add, but enough people have sent me their thoughts via e-mail that I thought it would be good to have a thread on this blog for conversation.

EDITED TO ADD (1/23): Groklaw’s legal analysis. Secret Service involvement.

EDITED TO ADD (1/29): Another.

EDITED TO ADD (2/28): The DoJ has admitted that Aaron Swartz’s prosecution was political.

EDITED TO ADD (3/4): This profile of Aaron Swartz is very good.

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 6:14 AMView Comments

Lexical Warfare

This essay, which uses the suicide of Aaron Swartz as a jumping off point for how the term “hactivist” has been manipulated by various powers, has this to say about “lexical warfare”:

I believe the debate itself is far broader than the specifics of this unhappy case, for if there was prosecutorial overreach it raises the question of whether we as a society created the enabling condition for this sort of overreach by letting the demonization of hacktivists go unanswered. Prosecutors do not work in a vacuum, after all; they are more apt to pursue cases where public discourse supports their actions. The debate thus raises an issue that, as philosopher of language, I have spent time considering: the impact of how words and terms are defined in the public sphere.

“Lexical Warfare” is a phrase that I like to use for battles over how a term is to be understood. Our political discourse is full of such battles; it is pretty routine to find discussions of who gets to be called “Republican” (as opposed to RINO – Republican in Name Only), what “freedom” should mean, what legitimately gets to be called “rape” — and the list goes on.

Lexical warfare is important because it can be a device to marginalize individuals within their self-identified political affiliation (for example, branding RINO’s defines them as something other than true Republicans), or it can beguile us into ignoring true threats to freedom (focusing on threats from government while being blind to threats from corporations, religion and custom), and in cases in which the word in question is “rape,” the definition can have far reaching consequences for the rights of women and social policy.

Lexical warfare is not exclusively concerned with changing the definitions of words and terms — it can also work to attach either a negative or positive affect to a term. Ronald Reagan and other conservatives successfully loaded the word “liberal” with negative connotations, while enhancing the positive aura of terms like “patriot” (few today would reject the label “patriotic,” but rather argue for why they are entitled to it).

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 6:10 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.