One year ago today, an NSA contractor named Edward Snowden went public with his history-changing revelations about the NSA's massive system of indiscriminate surveillance. Today the FSF is releasing Email Self-Defense, a guide to personal email encryption to help everyone, including beginners, make the NSA's job a little harder. We're releasing it as part of Reset the Net, a global day of action to push back against the surveillance-industrial complex.
Email encryption is a simple way to give yourself a shield that can protect you and your community from the giant surveillance system we all face. If you need any proof of the effectiveness of these tools, remember that Snowden used them to leak his precious information safely. Many effective shields, wielded well and held together in solidarity, make a strong wall. The Email Self-Defense Guide will lead you all the way through the process of sending and receiving your first encrypted mail.
Encrypting your email can not only protect you and your loved ones from the NSA, it also keeps big Internet corporations from collecting your data as well. Gmail, for example, mines your email to serve you ads. If that email is encrypted on your desktop, Google's servers will never see the contents of your messages (even if you don't use Gmail yourself, every email you send to someone who does ends up on their servers). And even if you think that you personally have nothing to hide, remember: if the only people who encrypt their email DO have something to hide, then the NSA can easily target those emails and use their massive resources to break the encryption. The more people encrypt all their email, even the trivial stuff, the harder it becomes for the NSA to target whistleblowers, journalists, and others with legitimate, legal reasons to keep information private.
If you already use email encryption, we encourage you to check out the guide and give us feedback on it. You can also make a big difference by sending it to your friends and offering to help them use it to get started.
Challenging the surveillance state takes a multi-pronged approach; we'll need to take legislative action, and we'll need to sharply reduce the amount of data that companies are collecting about us in general. Today thousands of people -- and some of the most popular websites -- are taking concrete steps to secure their part of the Internet. With free software tools and principles, we can make suspicionless, dragnet-style surveillance exponentially more difficult and expensive for governments to conduct.
Zak, Libby, John, William, and the rest of the FSF team
P.S. If you like Email Self-Defense, please consider making a donation. We have big plans to get it in the hands of people under bulk surveillance all over the world, and make more tools like it.
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