Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest by Helen Nissenbaum, Finn Brunton

By Helen Nissenbaum, Finn Brunton

With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum suggest to begin a revolution. they're calling us to not the barricades yet to our desktops, supplying us how one can struggle today’s pervasive electronic surveillance—the choice of our information by means of governments, businesses, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privateness maintaining strategies and initiatives, they suggest including obfuscation: the planned use of ambiguous, complicated, or deceptive details to intervene with surveillance and information assortment initiatives. Brunton and Nissenbaum offer instruments and a purpose for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for standard clients, these people now not able to decide out or exert keep an eye on over facts approximately ourselves. Obfuscation will train clients to beat back, software program builders to maintain their person facts secure, and coverage makers to collect info with out misusing it.

Brunton and Nissenbaum current a consultant to the varieties and codecs that obfuscation has taken and clarify the right way to craft its implementation to fit the target and the adversary. They describe a chain of old and modern examples, together with radar chaff deployed through international conflict II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media technique of well known protest pursuits, and software program that may camouflage users’ seek queries and stymie web advertising. They move directly to contemplate obfuscation in additional normal phrases, discussing why obfuscation is critical, if it is justified, the way it works, and the way it may be built-in with different privateness practices and applied sciences.

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During the 1980s, while the network we have described was taking shape, the larger milieu of international business was producing exactly the kind of background against which this subterfuge could hide itself. ” The activists needed a typical user of encrypted email—one without clear political affiliation—to find out if their encrypted messages could escape notice in the overall tide of mail. ” They had an agent who could try this system out before they switched their communications over to the new approach: a native South African who was about to return to his homeland after working abroad for many years as a Core Cases 23 programmer for British telecommunications companies.

23 For example, because of how the programming language C interprets names of variables, a programmer can muddle human analysis but not machine execution by writing code that includes the letters o and O in contexts that trick the eye by resembling zeroes. Some of these forms of obfuscation lie a little outside our working definition of “obfuscation,” but they are useful for illustrating an approach to the fundamental problem of obfuscation: how to transform something that is open to scrutiny into something ambiguous, full of false leads, mistaken identities, and unmet expectations.

Although the Danes courageously protected their Jewish population in other ways, the Yellow Star wasn’t used by the Nazis in occupied Denmark, for fear of arousing more anti-German feeling. 9 Excessive documentation: making analysis inefficient Continuing our look at obfuscation that operates by adding in genuine but misleading signals, let us now consider the overproduction of documents as a form of obfuscation, as in the case of over-disclosure of material in a lawsuit. This was the strategy of Augustin Lejeune, chief of the General Police Bureau in the Committee of Public Safety, a major instrument in the Terror phase of the French Revolution.

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