Press Release: Organizers of largest ever effort to secure the web against mass surveillance announce next phase of “Reset the Net”

Posted July 31, 2014 at 5:52 PM


July 31, 2014

Media contact:
Evan Greer, Fight for the Future
Phone: 978-852-6457

Organizers of largest ever effort to secure the web against mass surveillance announce next phase of “Reset the Net

Fight for the Future, the digital rights group behind last month’s successful “Reset the Net” campaign, vow to announce new participants and actions each month to spread the use of encryption technology and make more and more of the web off-limits to mass surveillance.

Today, organizers of the Reset the Net campaign unveiled the latest advances in Internet’s collective push to block out mass government surveillance. This month’s participants include smartphone retailer GSM Nation who will add educational Reset the Net inserts to phones they ship, domain registrar Namecheap who launched to encourage more sites to encrypt, reddit, who pledged to run free ads for privacy startups, and the Student Net Alliance who announced a campaign to grade campuses based on their Internet freedom and privacy policies.

“Last month it was clear that the resounding echoes of the Reset the Net launch had been heard in the chambers of Congress when the House voted to pass amendments that would have meaningfully reined in NSA and FBI spying,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, “But the Senate voted to kill those amendments, and the latest version of the USA Freedom Act contains dangerously vague language that could potentially worsen the status quo. By dragging their feet on this issue, Congress is forcing the public to take matters into their own hands. They’re saying: encrypt or get spied on. What choice do we have?”

Reset the Net was launched last month on June 5th, the anniversary of the first Snowden revelation in The Guardian and Washington Post. The campaign reached billions of people and involved the largest websites on earth including WordPress, Twitter, Google, Tumblr, Wikipedia, reddit, Mozilla, and Minecraft. As part of the effort, many sites pledged to add SSL, HSTS, and Perfect Forward Secrecy to their sites to protect user privacy, while others helped promote the free and open source encryption tools in the Reset the Net Privacy Pack.

Edward Snowden endorsed the campaign during a video appearance on June 5th, saying, “We’re past the point where citizens are entirely dependent on governments to defend our rights. We don’t have to ask for our privacy, we can take it back.” He also submitted a written statement in support of the campaign.

Reset the Net organizers vow to announce a new round of participants each month, and to continue escalating their demands on governments and corporations to end mass suspicionless surveillance.

This month’s Reset the Net announcements:

  • GSM Nation, a major phone retailer, announced that they will join Reset the Net by including a physical “privacy pack” insert in thousands of mobile devices that they ship to educate customers about free and open source applications they can use to protect their mobile privacy. They also announced that they will soon be offering the privacy-conscious Blackphone, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Fight for the Future.

  • Leading domain registrar Namecheap launched, a one stop website in partnership with Reset the Net that makes it easy and cheap for webmasters to protect their visitors’ privacy by adding SSL encryption to their sites for just $1.99 (of which $1 is donated to Fight for the Future to support the campaign.) During the June launch of Reset the Net, Namecheap distributed more than 6,000 SSL certificates, organizers set a goal of 10,000 by the end of August.

  • Student Net Alliance, a new international network of student-run Internet freedom groups, announced the launch of the Campus Internet Policy Gradebook, which will grade colleges and universities’ policies based on 10 criteria including how they manage student data, relationships with NSA and other agencies, free speech protections, student intellectual property rights, transparency reporting, and encryption of data. Student organizers will be collecting data this Fall and launching campaigns based on their findings. More on Student Net Alliance here.

  • reddit, “the front page of the Internet” with more than 115 million monthly visitors, committed to continue running free advertisements for privacy startups to give a boost to the many new easy-to-use encryption technologies that have been developed since the Snowden revelations.

  • Open Whisper Systems this week unveiled Signal, a free and open source app allowing for worldwide encrypted phone calls on iPhone. They further announced that Signal will become one unified app that will replace TextSecure and RedPhone on Android, and will soon have a browser extension option, allowing for user friendly end-to-end encrypted communication on nearly any device.

Below are statements from some of this month’s Reset the Net participants:

Laura Harrison Director of Marketing at GSM Nation said, “We believe that everyone should have the right to keep their personal information private, including information stored on their mobile devices. To that end, we’re excited to partner with Fight For the Future to educate users who purchase cell phones from GSM Nation about the steps they can take to keep their mobile devices secure. By implementing these suggestions, mobile users can begin taking steps to protect their information from prying eyes.”

“We were proud to support the first push for Reset the Net in June, where we helped distribute thousands of SSL certificates,” said Richard Kirkendall, CEO of Namecheap, “All of us here at Namecheap believe deeply in the importance of a free and open Internet. We’re glad to be a positive part of the solution to enhance internet privacy.”

“Last month, hundreds of students came together to protest mass surveillance on college campuses. But some of the most egregious violations of privacy are committed by the universities themselves, ” said Alec Foster, Executive Director of Student Net Alliance, “That’s why we’re announcing the Campus Internet Policy Gradebook: a resource to not only help students learn about innovation and privacy policies at their schools, but to let students compare their school’s policies to other institutions. In addition, the recommendations for improvement can help students identify and work to change problematic policies on campus.”

“Repairing the damage that the NSA has done to our online privacy isn’t something you can accomplish in a day, it’s going to take time,” said Erik Martin, general manager of reddit, “There’s been an exciting surge in the development of easy-to-use privacy technology in the wake of the Snowden revelations, we aim to do our part to get those tools into the hands of everyday Internet users who want to protect themselves from illegal surveillance.”