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RIP Groklaw

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, August 21st, 2013 - 28 comments
Categories: blogs, john key, law, peter dunne - Tags: , , , ,

Groklaw has been an inspirational blog for many with an interest in geekery or the law. I read it daily during the years of the SCO trial. PJ and her team were and are amazing – they had significant input into the legal case that defeated SCO, and showed us all a model of how an online community could be organised and run both rationally and effectively. Long Live Groklaw!

But now it’s over. Selections from PJ’s last post:

Forced Exposure

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.

What to do?

What to do? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it’s good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpont of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this.

There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel.
So. There we are. The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can’t do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.

I’m really sorry that it’s so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.

If you have to stay on the Internet, my research indicates that the short term safety from surveillance, to the degree that is even possible, is to use a service like Kolab for email, which is located in Switzerland, and hence is under different laws than the US, laws which attempt to afford more privacy to citizens. I have now gotten for myself an email there, p.jones at mykolab.com in case anyone wishes to contact me over something really important and feels squeamish about writing to an email address on a server in the US. But both emails still work. It’s your choice.

My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible. I’m just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can’t stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I’ve always been a private person. That’s why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.

Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world’s economy would collapse, I suppose. I can’t really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over.

So this is the last Groklaw article. I won’t turn on comments. Thank you for all you’ve done. I will never forget you and our work together. I hope you’ll remember me too. I’m sorry I can’t overcome these feelings, but I yam what I yam, and I tried, but I can’t.

This is a tragedy. And it’s the world that the Key-Dunne spying bill is bringing ever closer to NZ.

28 comments on “RIP Groklaw”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Sheeeezus. The ending of globalisation but the rise of global empire.

  2. One Anonymous Knucklehead 2

    I’d be very interested in Lprent’s take on this.

    Is Internet anonymity dead, or have the NSA revelations simply exposed a market opportunity?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Internet anonymity never existed. What you did on the internet was always tracked by the ISPs, your emails always recorded. The only difference is that people now know that it is and that governments will be looking at the data.

      What we should be asking is: What needs to be done to ensure that it’s not recorded and tracked unless a warrant exists?

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1

        Yes, and until someone effectively fills the gap in the market this will have a chilling effect upon private and professional communications.

  3. Paul Campbell 4

    This is really sad – Groklaw’s done such a great job over the years starting with the SCO shenanigans to covering the various ongoing IP lawsuits – if you want to understand how US law works it’s always been a great place to go.

    PJ’s been threatened, stalked by PIs, put up with so much crap and still held firm.

    Og course it’s important to note that the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill would effectively make an encrypted email service like Lavabit impossible in NZ since they could be forced to give up their keys and to use equipment and software mandated by the GCSB.

    Maybe it’s time to buy Tuvalu before it slips under the waves and start up a datahaven on stilts just to provide the world with the privacy it deserves

    • alwyn 4.1

      Please, would someone tell me what SCO means in this context?
      It can’t be Scotland, much less the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which are what Google gives me.

      • Paul Campbell 4.1.2

        SHG has the reference – basically it was a dieing company with some funding from Microsoft tried to bring down Linux claiming bits of it were stolen from code that they didn’t actually own

        (disclaimer: a company I worked for had business dealings with a previous incarnation of SCO, we were ripped off)

  4. Tracey 5

    Judith Collins has just explained how the impact of knowing her emails and those of her department could be read by the head of the inquiry was “chilling” for her.

    Could someone ask her next week in question-time?

    Does Judith Collins have anything to hide in the inquiry into who leaked the GCSB report? If NO


    What does she have to fear that made the possibility so “chilling” for her?

  5. Sable 6

    The death of free speech on the internet is really indicative of the loss of free speech in general. The internet inspired open collaboration, the exchange of ideas and above all, innovation. It mostly made peoples lives better but I agree with this writer, its over.

    As long as National, John Keys and his ugly spy laws are allowed to persist and exist we have no real freedom left in New Zealand. After its passed and it will be, I personally will be reducing my internet use to simple exchanges, it will become a blunt tool for cursory communication.

    What I’ll also add is I have no confidence in National or Labour. I still can not grasp why people vote for either or persist in thinking Labour in any real sense is still a left leaning party. They have both consistently shown they can not be trusted and yet here we are. What this means for our society, who knows. For myself I won’t be staying in NZ after 2013. Six years of this repellent monster is quite enough.

  6. Bob 7

    Wow, were the Police, NZSIS or NZ Defense force requesting their metadata? And who were they conversing with in order for the head of the GCSB and the PM to sign off for the GCSB to release their metadata? And what would have been contained within that metadata for there to been sufficient reason for a secondary warrant to release the content of their emails? Also why weren’t they worried about the SIS using their existing powers to view this obviously (if all of the above could be signed off) illegal activity?

    Were these guys using illegal means to fund this Groklaw site, or have they just started wearing tinfoil hats?

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 7.1

      Is this some witless tiresome rehash of Joseph Goebbel’s remark that if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear?

      Firstly, I’d like to say that I think we should treat people who advance that argument the way our parents and grandparents did: with extreme prejudice, and secondly, do you have curtains?

    • Paul Campbell 7.2

      No Groklaw has depended in the past on anonymous sources spilling the beans about nefarious dealings by the rich and powerful – they are closing because they feel that they cannot adequately protect their sources in the current government spying on everyone environment

    • lprent 7.3

      That site is no different from the way I run this site. See the privacy section of the about. This current GCSB bill and the others like here and in the States is one of the main reasons that this site is distributed offshore despite its 95% NZ readership, and partially hidden behind a screen of proxy servers.

      If our dipshit current minister of security doesn’t hesitate to illegally violate privacy laws against his own ministers, and appears to has little or no idea of the results of his lawmaking, then why should I trust this victim of hubris to not attack his political opponents on the net?

      You really are quite quite stupidly onlu thinking of the short-term… If this kind of thing happens too much, then the net will eventually be abandoned by the people who currently help make it run. Instead it will be left to the dumbarses like Key who couldn’t read their own e-mails without massive amounts of help.

  7. tracey 8

    Collins and banks obviously have stuff to hide bob.

  8. JonL 9

    Sorry, “Bob” just doesn’t get it….like so many of the other clueless dimwits out there……….

  9. infused 10

    Emails are not encrypted. Why are people getting their panties in a bunch over this now?

    • lprent 10.1

      I have (and always did) encrypt a reasonable number of mine with people I have shared keys with. It has been part of every email system in one form or another I’ve used since I was pushing mail around in uucp.

      Too sophisticated for you?

      • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1

        It can be done but it’s such a PITA to do so putting it out of range of the average user and a lot of people don’t know that it can be done at all.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead

          That’s what some people call a gap in the market.

        • lprent

          …putting it out of range of the average user…

          Oh I agree. But for some reason some people I have been working for/with don’t like shipping code and keys over unencrypted systems subject to man-in-the-middle access. e-Mail was a convenient way to wrap encrypted blocks. But it was a bit irritating for anything large. PGP helped a lot.

          For quite a while I used VPN’s because microsoft supported them on windows servers. But they’re quirky and the way that microsoft charges for connections is ridiculous.

          These days I’m on linux almost exclusively except when I’m testing code for windows, osx, and android. So I mostly use openssh. Works well for everything except windows where putty+pageant or even the ported openssh suck to work with.

          But generally a public/private key system with a reasonable bit size is pretty good if you can protect the keys,

  10. jamiep 11

    You will be like I am here, where even though I have VPN on and will turn on technical support from kapersky, I still know someones on my computer and you know when they come on because you have typed in a few key words like China that has alerted them to spy on you and when you try to open some panels they won’t open because they don’t want you to know that it isn’t the internet connection that your suppose to be on but an unknown public.
    I am not the greatest getting around a computer but that’s what is like around here and routinely most days they will scan your computer so you need to change your VPN to another country (different IP address). I don’t have anything to hide, this is your future NZ welcome to it. Sleeping Dogs

  11. Rather stupid abandoning the internet because it’s now common knowledge that there is no internet privacy unless you keep ahead of the spies.
    Sort of devalues the sacrifice of the whistleblowers to inform us so we can keep ahead.
    I don’t hear anyone saying we should stop demonstrating in public.
    There are some rights to die for.
    So keep ahead of the spies, and spread disinformation when necessary.
    The Bolsheviks had Tsarist spies sitting on their central committee. Since they were there they were put to work.
    When the Bolsheviks set the date for the insurrection, three members of the central committee published the date in Pravda.
    It didnt matter since the Bolsheviks had already won over the ranks of the army.

    • Murray Olsen 12.1

      The Canadian Communist Party always knew who the spies were, because they were the only ones who always paid their subs on time.

      I like to remember that if they’re not watching us, they have nothing to fear. And they should be in fear of the day that we bring their fake, exploitative, planet destroying world down around their ears. As red rattler says, we have to adapt, we have to learn, and we have to keep fighting. Running for the hills is not an option.

  12. Bladelores 13

    @ redrattler yep we shouldn’t stop using the net we just need to boot the government off and reclaim it back. Electronic Bill of Rights needed as quickly as possible. In regards to no one saying you cannot demonstrate in public – The Beginning = http://www.lawsociety.org.nz/lawtalk/issue-817/sop-sinks-mining-protesters-
    So everyone needs to take off their wet toweling hats, wipe your tears away and start working on how we will change this situation, we have all been forced into, no matter how ignorantly, all of us have been forced into. There is a huge amount of people unhappy about this.
    And just heard about Shearer as I am typing, what is Labour upto? Finally an issue that you could have used to get into power but no, show how unstable you all are. Nice.

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