Global Encryption Day

Today is the first Global Encryption Day. On this day, we ask people to Make the Switch to encrypted services like Tor. Encryption is our most vital and important tool against surveillance and privacy/security-violating services and programs.

Our digital life is secured and private because of encryption. Encryption allows us to survive the dangerous time we’re living in. When our data is collected in every way possible, encryption makes us able to fight; to fight for our lives, fight for our privacy, fight for our security, fight for our freedoms, and fight for our rights.

When governments and organizations/corporations are trying hard to profile us in any way possible, encryption makes us able to resist. When everybody is trying to violate our privacy, or jeopardize our basic human rights, encryption makes us able to resist.

On Global Encryption Day we ask people to switch to encrypted services and programs:

  • For instant messaging, I use XMPP which is encrypted by OMEMO,
  • For voice/video calls, I use Jitsi, which has end-to-end encryption,
  • I only use web sites that encrypt my connection using TLS (HTTPS),
  • I use GNU+Linux operating system which lets me encrypt my computers’ hard drive,
  • I use LUKS/LVM to encrypt my portable hard drives,
  • I use GPG/PGP to encrypt my emails,
  • I use KeePassXC which encrypts my password vault,
  • I use Nextcloud which encrypts my files on the cloud,
  • and I use many more services and programs use encryption to make sure I’m private and secure.

In honor of this inaugural Global Encryption Day, the Tor Project, along with 148 other organizations and businesses have signed the Global Encryption Day Statement, calling on governments and businesses to reject efforts to undermine encryption and instead pursue policies that enhance, strengthen, and promote use of strong encryption to protect people everywhere.

As an individual, you can get involved with Global Encryption Day by:

What is RSS (Really Simple Syndication)?

I always encourage people to use RSS or Atom feeds to subscribe to people’s blogs but many people need an introduction and explanation about RSS and Atom.

Let’s talk about RSS, as it’s not much different with Atom. RSS is basically a web feed that is readable by computers. A web feed is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content. It means that whenever the blog or news feed gets updated, the user can receive the update in user’s feed aggregator.

Writers or so-called content distributors syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe a channel to it by adding the feed address to a feed aggregator client (also called a feed reader or a news reader).

The information could be blog entries, news headlines, or audio or video files. RSS documents usually contain complete or summarized text, metadata, and author and publishing information.

There are some distinct advantages to using RSS. Instead of visiting the individual websites, RSS feeds can help provide users with updates and information from different sites in one convenient place. For example, instead of visiting 30 websites every day, I just open my feed aggregator and hit the update button, and I get the latest published writings or media from those blogs or news sites I’m subscribed to.

With RSS, subscribing doesn’t need email! You won’t be asked to give away your email address to any blog or site, and that site won’t be able to sell your data to anyone. RSS just simply visits or opens the blog’s RSS file and checks for new writings or media, and will show it to you in a human-readable way.

Just like how you read this blog post on your web browser, but RSS gives you ability to read everything on your own computer without being forced to open my blog.

Sample of a feed aggregator program (Liferea), featuring Chris Wiegman‘s blog post.

So what is Atom?

“The Atom Syndication Format is an XML language used for web feeds, while the Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub or APP) is a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and updating web resources.” That was Wikipedia. In human terms, Atom is basically RSS with extra steps.

I personally prefer Atom feeds over RSS ones because Atom benefits from on-going innovation and is a standard. The Atom Syndication Format was published as an IETF proposed standard in RFC 4287 in December 2005, and the Atom Publishing Protocol was published as RFC 5023 two years later, in October 2007.

While the RSS vocabulary has a mechanism to indicate a human language for the feed, there is no way to specify a language for individual items or text elements. Atom, on the other hand, uses the standard xml:lang attribute to make it possible to specify a language context for every piece of human-readable content in the feed.

Also, the Atom working group chose to use timestamps formatted according to the rules specified by RFC 3339 (which is a subset of ISO 8601, my favorite time format).

How to use it really?

Subscribing to blog feeds may be the easiest thing you can do with your computer. First thing you need is a feed aggregator program. I use Liferea, which is a free (libre) program. There are a lot of other programs you can install. Thunderbird and Evolution email clients come with a built-in feed aggregator. If you use Nextcloud, the Nextcloud News app is super cool. Another suggestion is Akregator which is developed by KDE.

Second, you need to go to blogs or news sites you like and grab their RSS or Atom feed URLs. They usually provide their URLs somewhere in their site, possibly using the “subscribe” or similar phrases. An easy way to detect feed URLs is using web browser add-ons. I use Feed Indicator add-on on my Firefox-based browser. You can search similar terms to find more add-ons.

Third, you should copy the link of the RSS or Atom feed and paste it in your feed aggregator program new subscription form, and hit subscribe or OK or whatever it is. You’ll find out.

That’s it. You can now ask your program to update the feeds to get latest published writings or media on your favorite blogs or sites.

Apple is going to put a back door in your private life and the answer to that is free software

Apple’s new controversial feature “protections for children” opens a back door in your iPhone. The feature is controversial not because it protects children, which is very needed and good practice, but because it chooses a wrong way to do so.

Apple has explained its privacy and security practices in its proposed back door but at the end of the day, it’s a back door, and there’s no such thing as “only-good-guys back-door”.

Many people are angry about it and many are already campaigning to ask Apple reversing its decisions. A very known one, Apple Privacy Letter, is a campaign supported by famous EFF, Privacy Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and many others is asking people to sign the petition on GitHub and says “Apple’s proposal introduces a backdoor that threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products.”

I don’t use Apple products. They’re proprietary and against computer user freedom. Instead, currently, I use a distribution of Android operating system named LineageOS. I’m not going to sign any campaign or beg Apple to respect my privacy.

When it comes to privacy, Apple is not a hero. It wasn’t long ago that Apple turned over iCloud data to Chinese government. Apple was not a privacy hero then, and is not a privacy hero now. They are very good at marketing and selling products, but they’re not, at all, a hero of privacy practices.

I agree, Apple’s privacy practices are much better than proprietary Android manufacturers, but that’s not enough. Respecting people is not giving them some privacy. As long as Apple is controlling everything and doesn’t give people full control and right over their devices, including software freedom and right to repair, they’re not a hero in anything but violating people’s rights and freedoms.

Many mobile operating systems and devices are not easy to use, I fully agree. GNU+Linux phones are not very suitable for daily use and Android devices may have some problems such as accessibility issues, but the real answer to, the real solution of, this kind of controversies is not to beg Apple or anyone to respect us, but is to respect ourselves by running free software and privacy-respecting operating systems, and those are not made by Apple or any other proprietor.

You may say free software also has bugs and insecurities, free programs is not perfect. Yes, that is true. However, the difference between free and proprietary software in this respect is the handling of the bugs: free software users are able to study the program and/or fix the bugs they find, often in communities as they are able to share the program, while proprietary program users are forced to rely on the program’s developer for fixes.

If the developer does not care to fix the problem — often the case for embedded software and old releases — the users are sunk. But if the developer does send a corrected version, it may contain new malicious functionalities as well as bug fixes.

I urge you to answer to what Apple is going to do by installing and running a free operating system. Put yourself in control, and run software in which you can run freely, study, share, modify, and share your modifications. Free software empowers users and is the best answer for any situation, specially in ones like what we’re facing with Apple right now.

Iran passed the controversial “Preserving the Rights of Users in Cyberspace” law

A controversial law which many believe will lead the country to block, censor, and shut down the internet was passed today in Iran’s parliament. The law, named “Preserving the Rights of Users in Cyberspace” was passed as 121 of 204 voted yes, while 74 voted no.

It is believed, and by experience seems to be true, that the point and goal of this law is to limit internet messengers and social networks, specially WhatsApp and Instagram, as they’re most-used social and communication tools, and then ultimately shut down internet, limiting it to sites and networks located inside the country. This way the government can have full control over what people say, hear, do, or share.

While I condemn the use of any proprietary app, I can’t agree to any kind of censorship. Whether it’s proprietary or free (libre), it doesn’t matter for me today because what people use should be up to them and nobody, absolutely nobody, shouldn’t be able to force people use anything they don’t like, for any purpose.

According to this law, social networks and messengers like Instagram will be blocked inside the country if they don’t assign a representative and according to article 17 of the law, their bandwidth/speed can be reduced too much that using them would be impossible practically.

Instagram is one of the most popular social networks in Iran and Iranian citizens do economic activities such as sales of goods and supply services. Iran’s officials, including Ali Khamenei, also use this social network. Mr. Khamenei recently said that the country’s cyberspace is abandoned and officials should do something about it.

Blocking social networks and messengers has a history in the country. Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Signal, and many Mastodon instances are blocked and people are forced to use internet censorship circumvention tools.

People are against this law. I can say the majority of people are concerned about the results of this and are concerned about their businesses, social life, communications, and privacy. While I don’t use any of those proprietary apps and services, internet being limited affects me too. Even if it wasn’t affecting me, I would still oppose it because it’s against people’s rights and freedoms.

Fedora (Red Hat) removed a contributor because of his nationality

Ahmad Haghighi, a Fedora GNU+Linux contributor and ambassador was removed from the project because of his nationality. He mentioned this in a tweet announcing his contributions and posts in “Ask Fedora” are removed. Even the long first post of the Persian Ask Fedora is removed.

Matthew Miller, Fedora Project Leader and engineer at Red Hat said that “haghighi linked to a bio page he created on Fedora wiki which states that his location is in Iran. Once Fedora as a project becomes aware of that information, we have no option. Personally, I do not think this is a good policy. But it is not a Fedora policy or Red Hat policy — we need to do it to comply with the law, which the US government enforces seriously.”

I stopped using Fedora because of the same thing. The fact that Fedora complies with U.S. laws no matter if it imposes injustice on people is very disappointing for me. I know they are forced to do this but that doesn’t mean I can ignore this injustice.

Free software philosophy won’t allow any restriction on using the computer program, but doesn’t say anything about who can contribute on the main project. I believe the base of that is to restrict developers from doing injustices to people and since I believe the philosophy of free software is to avoid injustices, I believe this kind of act is against the soul of software freedom.

This action, whether from U.S. government or anyone else, is very hurtful not only to free software community but to all people and should be stopped. Whether it’s law or not doesn’t justify the action. I understand they’re forced to but don’t ask me to understand I’m considered an illegal being because of my location or nationality.

Windows 11 is still nonfree

Close Windows, Open Doors
Picture courtesy of Free Software Foundation (CC BY 3.0 US license)

Two days ago, Microsoft introduced new version of Windows operating system and many seem to be excited and interested. Microsoft did some changes to the user interface and added what seem to be a cool feature, running Android apps, but, after all, it is same old Windows.

New versions of Windows might change the UI or underlying components, but they don’t change the only thing important to know about Windows: it’s nonfree software. Windows is closed to everyone, a proprietary operating system that neither users nor independent experts can view the system’s source code, make modifications or fixes, or copy the system.

This puts Microsoft in a dominant position over its customers, which it takes advantage of to treat them as a product. A nonfree operating system, just like any nonfree software, puts the developer in a controlling position over users’ computing, unlike free operating systems and programs that respect people.

Windows is privacy-violating, discriminatory, and a spyware. However, since a long time ago a group of hackers and a community of freedom-minded people are using and continuously developing a free (as in freedom) and privacy-respecting operating system named GNU, and most of them are using the Linux kernel.

By contrast, free software like the GNU+Linux operating system is developed by professional and volunteer communities working transparently, freely sharing their work with each other and the world. Users have meaningful influence over the software development process and complete choice over what code they run.

This means the software usually treats them with respect. Even if a free software developer took a page from Microsoft’s book and began abusing its users, it would have no way to keep them locked in — when this happens, independent experts copy the source code, remove the offending bits and help people switch to the user-respecting version.

Avoid Windows and install a free and privacy-respecting operating system. Close Windows, Open Doors.

Privacy vs. “I have nothing to hide”

Data Security

To start this article, I should mention what those words mean. Freedom means “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint” and liberty means “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” However, from now on, when I use any of those words, I mean both of them. So whether I write freedom or liberty, I mean “freedom and liberty”.

I value my liberty. I think liberty is what makes humans, humans. As a Middle Eastern, I understand how much my freedom is valuable and important. Us Middle Easterners are very much familiar with struggles one can have to gain freedom.

We fight for freedom in Middle East. If you’ve followed Middle East news in past 10 years, you surely understand what I’m talking about. Part of our fight for liberty needs us to be anonymous. In Middle East, you may get arrested or executed for simply talking against the dictator, so many of people take anonymity very serious when they talk politics, or anything else.

Anonymity is part of privacy. Anonymity is a choice when someone has privacy. I should explain this too. Being anonymous is a choice while privacy is a right. Someone with privacy can or may be anonymous but one can be identified and known while one still has privacy. I for example am active in a social network with my real name but I still take my privacy seriously, and am careful about my computing and acts.

Now back to what I was saying. In a situation like Middle East, privacy is so essential for living that almost everybody takes it seriously. I don’t mean all people are avoiding Google or Facebook, etc. but I mean they try their best to not give their data to the government.

People in Middle East basically understand the value and importance of privacy. However, even in Middle East, many people give me the argument of “I have nothing to hide” and refuse to take their privacy and rights seriously. Many don’t understand with not taking their privacy seriously, what they’re giving away.

To live as a free human being, and not be controlled or conquered by any person or power, you need privacy.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

Edward Snowden

Let’s start arguing against the “I have nothing to hide.”

Continue reading

Stop accusing people of what they didn’t do

I sent this post as an email message to libreplanet-discuss mailing list.

Do you guys follow football? I mean the real football, not Amerikkkan one. There’s a club in Spain named Barcelona. They have a player in their team named Leo Messi. I think many of you know him.

Messi is believed to be one of the best football players in the history. During time, some people accused Messi of sexual assault and harassment. They even went to court for it and sued Messi. It turned out that all of them were only doing this for money, hoping that Leo Messi gives them some ransom.

There’s another player named Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is almost as same as Messi. He is again believed to be one of the bests in the history. He also was accused of sexual harassment and assault. Again, some people went to court and sued him, etc.

Some of the accusers never went to court but they tell very interesting stories on how they were assaulted. There were no proof and the teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) never responded.

I can’t tell if those players who have a reputation of good behavior and charity and social work were really offenders or not, but I can tell one thing. Barca and Madrid didn’t let go of their best players because of some unproven accusations.

I remember Leo Messi once attacked a journalist physically because he was very angry but again, he made up to that, apologized, and never repeated such behavior because he was aware of how it can affect people. Again, we didn’t see any effort to ban Messi from playing football completely because that mistake.

I’m a football fan. I’m a fan of Manchester United, neither of those teams I mentioned but I never ever campaigned to throw out Messi and Ronaldo for unproven accusations.

I did not expect those teams to simply fire probably the best player of their history because some people said so.

Do you get my analogy here? I hear stories about an autistic person named RMS that he has assaulted women, harassed them, or sexually abused them. When I go and read the stories, I see what Stallman did was to “upset” some people. Not harassment, not assault, but upset.

Stallman shouted at some people or interrupted them while speaking. He hit on women or asked them out and insisted on that, which made them uncomfortable. If he was doing to me, I would be upset too, but I wouldn’t ever accuse him of assault or harassment. I wouldn’t expect FSF to fire its probably most valuable player that is known for his charity, effort for equality, justice, women’s rights, etc.

Why people expect FSF to fire its probably best player in history? I don’t understand that.

What people explain is not sexual harassment. He was an unpleasant person, maybe, to some people but he didn’t do anything to harass them.

Let me give you another example. There’s a different between patting some child on the butt and pedophilia. Now a pedophile most-probably does pat children on the butt but are all people who do that pedophiles? Hell no.

Please don’t accuse people of what they didn’t do because they made you uncomfortable or were unpleasant. If someone shouts at you, defend yourself or if the act of shouting makes you psychologically hurt, please be very very careful when you come out of your home because you may experience it almost every time.

If someone hitting on you makes you uncomfortable, ask them not to do that or ask security to help you but don’t accuse that person of harassment because looking at someone or being weird is not harassment. And again, please be careful when you come out of your house because you may experience it every day.

If someone interrupts you, ask them not to do that or argue back but don’t accuse that person of harassment because they didn’t harass you with that. Harassment is different. And please be careful when you come out of your house because people may interrupt you every day.

Stop with accusing people of things when they didn’t do that.

Also, please don’t accuse me of sexual harassment because I wrote this note. I don’t even know any of you and I did not harass you. Disagreeing with you is not harassment. Sending email messages is not assault.

I had to clarify that because as far as I’ve seen you people, the next open letter would’ve been for me. Don’t start arh-open-letter please. And yes, I’m mocking some people.