Given recent revelations of police spying on activists, the takedown of the fitwatch blog and the increasing use by police of social networking tools like facebook for information gathering and to intimidate protestors it seems aposite that a collective of tech activists should share their knowledge of how to organise online securely with the wider activist community. And that is exactly what the Hacktionlab crew have done with their new booklet, "Tech Tools for Activists".
I’ve written about another of the Hacktionlab initiatives, the BarnCamp elsewhere on this site. BarnCamp 2010 was a tech orientated gathering where non-techs were as welcome as anyone else. The booklet continues that concern for accessibility, prepending a short "user story" to each chapter. There is decent coverage of many of the emerging threats and acknowledgment of the fantastic and very necessary work of radical tech collectives like RiseUp in the US and Aktivix in the UK.
Of course, security and online security in particular is a massively complex field and no publication can cover every threat that ubiquitous global surveillance can bring forth, but as an initial step the booklet would mitigate a whole bunch of commonly encountered risks that activists face.
Ideally, of course we’d all be using activist infrastructure for all our online communications, as Phillip Smith hinted at in his article on rethinking resistance in the age of the cloud. But we have to take the enormous potential for raw communication that the corporate social networking sites offer as being too significant a way of organizing and of communicating our causes to ignore. Perhaps projects like Diaspora might eventually become solid contenders for secure, privacy aware social networking that works in a privacy respecting way by default, out of the box. Until that point activists and indeed any of us concerned with privacy needs to have at least some grip on the privacy implications of how we live our online lives.