February 11 is supposed to be a day of mass protest against NSA surveillance. Named ‘The Day We Fight Back’ it is reportedly the brainchild of a 34 year old former Congressman from Rhode Island, David Segal, and supported by “hundreds” of internet companies and various other political, civil and digital rights groups – both conservative and liberal.
The intent seems to be to evoke the same kind of digital ground swell that emerged 2 years ago around the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), in which the Congress was so caught off guard by the power of major websites going dark or posting protest messages for a single day that the proposed legislation was immediately killed. [See my post from Jan 26, 2012]
Tomorrow’s event, from what I can find online as of today, has some fairly significant differences from the Stop SOPA/PIPA movement.
For one, I don’t see the NSA bending to public will like Congress did – votes are not at stake, the intelligence community moves in a totally different (and mysterious) way, and the White House has already outlined its plan for NSA reform.
Tomorrow’s action also has mixed goals – along with people just generally stating that they think NSA surveillance is evil and unAmerican (which is rather vague), apparently some of the protesting organizations will also “ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, support the USA Freedom Act [how many Americans even know what those are?] and also use the event as an opportunity to commemorate Aaron Swartz, a controversial figure. While Swartz was a leader in the anti-SOPA/PIPA effort, his later prosecution for computer fraud and abuse, and subsequent suicide left a conflicted reputation.
Further, this is supposed to be an international event for others around the globe to express their outrage with the NSA reaching into their borders. I’m feeling like the message is mixed. Without a single firm goal, this effort could go the way of the Occupy movement.
But I’m curious. None of us likes the idea of the NSA or any other government entity collecting information on us. The privacy issue has been building steam for a long while, and Snowden pushed it out into the open. Tomorrow is the first real organized effort, and maybe something will come out of it. I find it interesting that the more radical Electronic Frontier Foundation is a main sponsor of the event, yet DC’s Center for Democracy and Technology, perhaps more practiced in the ways to get things done on The Hill, is not even connected with it.
I’ve been predicting [hoping for?] some sort of privacy legislation for the past couple of years. The issue is gathering steam, but change doesn’t come without the people’s voice. How many will actually feel outraged enough to call or email their Congressperson tomorrow? How many are more interested in the Olympics? Should be an interesting day.