Petter Reinholdtsen

How to talk with your loved ones in private
7th November 2016

A few days ago I ran a very biased and informal survey to get an idea about what options are being used to communicate with end to end encryption with friends and family. I explicitly asked people not to list options only used in a work setting. The background is the uneasy feeling I get when using Signal, a feeling shared by others as a blog post from Sander Venima about why he do not recommend Signal anymore (with feedback from the Signal author available from ycombinator). I wanted an overview of the options being used, and hope to include those options in a less biased survey later on. So far I have not taken the time to look into the individual proposed systems. They range from text sharing web pages, via file sharing and email to instant messaging, VOIP and video conferencing. For those considering which system to use, it is also useful to have a look at the EFF Secure messaging scorecard which is slightly out of date but still provide valuable information.

So, on to the list. There were some used by many, some used by a few, some rarely used ones and a few mentioned but without anyone claiming to use them. Notice the grouping is in reality quite random given the biased self selected set of participants. First the ones used by many:

Then the ones used by a few.

Then the ones used by even fewer people

And finally the ones mentioned by not marked as used by anyone. This might be a mistake, perhaps the person adding the entry forgot to flag it as used?

Given the network effect it seem obvious to me that we as a society have been divided and conquered by those interested in keeping encrypted and secure communication away from the masses. The finishing remarks from Aral Balkan in his talk "Free is a lie" about the usability of free software really come into effect when you want to communicate in private with your friends and family. We can not expect them to allow the usability of communication tool to block their ability to talk to their loved ones.

Note for example the option IRC w/OTR. Most IRC clients do not have OTR support, so in most cases OTR would not be an option, even if you wanted to. In my personal experience, about 1 in 20 I talk to have a IRC client with OTR. For private communication to really be available, most people to talk to must have the option in their currently used client. I can not simply ask my family to install an IRC client. I need to guide them through a technical multi-step process of adding extensions to the client to get them going. This is a non-starter for most.

I would like to be able to do video phone calls, audio phone calls, exchange instant messages and share files with my loved ones, without being forced to share with people I do not know. I do not want to share the content of the conversations, and I do not want to share who I communicate with or the fact that I communicate with someone. Without all these factors in place, my private life is being more or less invaded.

Tags: english, personvern, sikkerhet, surveillance.

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