Thursday, March 29, 2012


High-tech private networks support social movements

by Larry Geller

The ability to communicate has become essential to social movements from Iran to Egypt to Occupy in the USA. At the same time, governments are both spying on and attempting to limit access to the Internet and cellphone networks as they mount campaigns against their own populations.

I’ve wondered, for example, why there is not greater use of encryption for both voice and data transmissions? Why are we communicating via telephone in essentially the same way as Alexander Graham Bell did? We know the NSA can and does spy on domestic conversations. Certainly, they could break simple encoding given their vast computer power, but it would be much more time-consuming if the voice and data were not transmitted in plain text.

A Time article describes another approach. Why not have independent networks that Big Brother cannot shut down, or possibly even spy upon?

The article Occupy the Internet: Protests Give Rise to DIY Data Networks (Time, 3/28/2012) describes two possible approaches. One involves setting up a parallel digital network, the other uses small drones in border-crossing swarms.

Both schemes are intriguing. Check out the article. I particularly liked how the drones are so independent that

They recharge themselves autonomously, flying to a battery station when they run out of power.

Cool. Possibly invincible. A government can’t scramble a flock of F-16s to take out a swarm of microscopic drones flying at low altitude. Oh sure, they’ll find a way eventually. I can imagine government drones sent out to chase down and devour these pesky interlopers.

Some private drone technology is already here. A Swiss company has been selling them for some time. Others can hover outside your window, even come inside and visit you if you’ve left the screens open.

This video is two years old. Who knows what these little drones can do by now.


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