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Annoy the Govt Snoops

Every now and then, send gibberish
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I've been encountering claims that, if it isn't happening already, pretty soon just about every email or other online interaction will be getting scrutinized by the CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB, MI5, Scotland Yard, RCMP, etc.

They want to know, of course, whether or not you are saying anything that might let them arrest you.

So. It seems to me that what you need to do (besides the possibility of encrypting everything you do), is to get your friends to, every now and then, when you and they send messages to each other, send a message that is mostly pure gibberish.

"Hi, how ya doin? Here's my latest:
JzxRf9 L874 5eGihJafo uHIb6w 43K59U P2qXlk jgBBsa ;lk fdQht; oa wEgSyiqu wtHLq3 28M09 8Uedh glkPe auNIg ZAp9wq 8e7; ohgY"

The Government Snoops, of course, will be sure you are up to no good, and will spend countless hours of computer processing time trying to crack your secret messages. Except, of course, they aren't any such thing!

The best part of this Idea is, after they find out what you are doing, they can't arrest you for it. And, they will probably ignore all your gibberish messages, from then on. Which means THEN is the time to start sending REAL coded messages between you and your friends! But remember to keep sending pure gibberish most of the time, too!

Vernon, Jun 17 2012

Continuous Random Activity Provider
[xaviergisz, Jun 17 2012]

Tourists denied entry because of Twitter jokes http://travel.usato...-tourists-/616915/1
Watch what you say, because Big Brother is watching you! [ytk, Jun 18 2012]

Wish you were here. http://news.techeye...lopes-and-postcards
Hovercraft soup Richmal Crompton [TolpuddleSartre, Jun 18 2012]

Navaho code talkers in WW II http://www.history....il/faqs/faq61-2.htm
[xandram, Jun 18 2012]

D-day crossword clues http://www.telegrap...-of-a-solution.html
Wombat posset cheesemonger [TolpuddleSartre, Jun 18 2012]

[link]






       //send a message that is mostly pure gibberish//   

       This has been baked by [beanangel] for years.
ytk, Jun 17 2012
  

       If we could persuade the esteemed [jutta] to set up personal messaging on the HB, I'm pretty sure it would soon cause snoop fatigue.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 17 2012
  

       We also have been doing this for many years; adding an attachment composed of semi- random stuff to spoof Echelon.
8th of 7, Jun 17 2012
  

       Kressmann Taylor, "Address Unknown"
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jun 17 2012
  

       They are watching you send gibberish. The watching is making you send gibberish.
rcarty, Jun 17 2012
  

       // adding an attachment composed of semi- random stuff to spoof Echelon. //   

       Won't work, the clever bugger ignores gibberish. How do you think it listens in on cell phone calls without going mad?   

       The idea that the Government of any Western nation is going to start reading the email and listening in on phone conversations of its citizenry en masse is as much a fiction as it ever was. Account for the simple fact that none of these supposed agencies have the manpower alone to do it, and you've got science fiction--the only way to do it is with technology. Now consider the most basic question: why? How many people have committed a crime or act of treason worthwhile of the tremendous prosecutorial effort required to bring them to justice, and of that miniscule minority, how many are going to openly blather about it via unsecured networks?   

       The law enforcement and intelligence agencies pretty much all have their heads stuck up their asses, but they also have a good idea of the sort of people they need to focus their time on. Maybe, just maybe, blanket surveillance would catch the occasional isolated group, but most of those will get caught anyway, by things like monitoring of fertilizer purchases.   

       On the flipside, people say a lot of idiotic, thoughtless things, and if this widespread snooping some people are so afraid of were to take place, the agencies would spend more time and resources tracking those people down and watching them that they'd be too dog-tired to catch the real criminals.   

       The practice of inserting gibberish into communications is called 'code padding' and is so baked that nobody with anything to hide bothers doing it anymore.
Alterother, Jun 17 2012
  

       [marked-for-deletion] widely known to exist. Also architecture centipede Michigan trigonometry swift heterozygote, if you know what I mean.
jutta, Jun 17 2012
  

       I find it hilarious that governments assume they will catch anyone serious about doing them harm, by reading their email and sniffing for keywords. Humans' ability to extemporise messages in code, metaphor, simile, secret languages, irony, double entendre and any number of other methods is huge.   

       Flying purple shovel horoscope.
UnaBubba, Jun 18 2012
  

       Ah, but most of the footsoldiers in 'terrorist' organisations really aren't very bright. Such linguistic subtlety is beyond them.   

       In fact, advances in steganography but most of all the stunning volumes of data to be analysed make the whole idea laughable.
8th of 7, Jun 18 2012
  

       In the UK, they could formally demand that you <supply a key to> decrypt the message. In the absence of proof that you cannot, there is a prison term of 2 years.
So here at least, you'd be giving them the rope to hang you with.
Loris, Jun 18 2012
  

       //The idea that the Government of any Western nation is going to start reading the email and listening in on phone conversations of its citizenry en masse is as much a fiction as it ever was.//   

       O RLY? (link)   

       One wonders how exactly they linked these particular tourists with their messages on Twitter. And it's only a short step from monitoring people's Twitter feeds to monitoring their email…
ytk, Jun 18 2012
  

       Donec tellus enim, fringilla vel scelerisque vel, pretium vitae lacus. Etiam gravida, nibh id adipiscing viverra, lectus enim euismod tellus, quis sagittis sem erat nec neque. Praesent malesuada, odio non porta sagittis, lacus augue varius arcu, a congue purus justo non ipsum.
S-note, Jun 18 2012
  

       [UnaBubba] I'm sure it's *purple monkey dishwasher*...
xandram, Jun 18 2012
  

       //JzxRf9 L874 5eGihJafo uHIb6w//   

       sp. JzxRf9 L874 5eHihJafo uHIb6w
pertinax, Jun 18 2012
  

       Good link, [ytk], but that's not exactly what I was talking about; for one thing, that's the government of a Western nation reading the mail of _another_ nation's ctizenry, and it was hardly random or part of a mass sweep, it was an Echelon function back-checking the cached communications of foreign nationals entering the country. Granted, it was surprisingly efficient and terribly American of us to catch the idiots so quickly and send them packing. Frankly, I think that level of jackassity deserves honorary citizenship.   

       Anyway, it's still a far cry from people having a reasonable expectation that their correspondence is being actively monitored at any given moment. East Germany tried that, and it nearly bankrupted them. You have to look at the economics of the thing.
Alterother, Jun 18 2012
  

       I think that at some random time, we should start sending a massive amount of gibberish to the Iranian Government. They'd be completely flummoxed as to what it was about. Keep doing it for a good while 'til they ignore it, then hit them with Son of Stuxnet.
RayfordSteele, Jun 18 2012
  

       // we should start sending a massive amount of gibberish to the Iranian Government.//   

       But they already get CNN ...
8th of 7, Jun 18 2012
  

       I understand the difference between that situation and the scenario you're outlining, [Alter]. But consider that if they're monitoring the Twitter feeds of foreign nationals, they're certainly monitoring the feeds of U.S. citizens. Are they doing anything with that data? Perhaps not at the moment. But that doesn't mean they /couldn't/. So just substitute email for Twitter, and we're getting into full-on 1984 territory. Phone conversations may be more private, but that's only because the courts have held that you need a warrant to snoop on people's phone calls. That's not the case for email. Under certain circumstances, the government is free to read your email with no warrant or notification whatsoever.
ytk, Jun 18 2012
  

       I'm trying to point out, without condoning any of it (because I don't), that there is a huge difference between circumstancial spot-checking, which is what happened to those tourists, and wide-cast monitoring. The US agencies weren't snooping on those people at all, but when they tried to enter the country, a quick, completely automated check of their recent call records, tweets, and emails was conducted. When I travel to Britain again, the same will probably be done with my records, but there isn't anyone from Special Branch listening to my phone calls right now.   

       I don't like the idea of being covertly surveilled any more than anybody else does, and I certainly don't trust my own government any further than I can throw it, but I think everyone's a little too whipped up over the idea that the g- men are always listening. For one thing, we're Small Fish. The men who fly around in unmarked black helicopters do not waste money on Small Fish who haven't done anything wrong. Furthermore, the logistical infrastructure for mass surveillance simply does not exist. So take a couple of deep breaths and don't worry; (the diverse array of software and technology collectively known as) Echelon is not Big Brother, it is just a very sophisticated, worldwide keyword search engine that can put you in jail.
Alterother, Jun 18 2012
  

       I guess my point is that whether or not they are capable of doing it, they clearly /want/ to. Probably the biggest factor protecting us from the surveillance state is that the government is pretty much incompetent at nearly everything it attempts. However, this isn't much of a safeguard, in my opinion. I probably have more knowledge than most as to the internal workings of the federal government, and I'm telling you that if there's one thing the government is good at—its core competency, if you will—it's doing evil. Not that everything the government does is evil, mind you (most of it is just really stupid), but it seems that the people who are really good at doing evil and are inclined to do so naturally find their way into government.
ytk, Jun 18 2012
  

       // pretty much //   

       Sp. "Almost totally"   

       // its core competency, if you will—it's doing evil. //   

       It tries to, but it's just not very good at it.   

       //Not that everything the government does is evil, mind you (most of it is just really stupid) //   

       Sp. "almost all of it is really stupid and wasteful"   

       // the people who are really good at doing evil and are inclined to do so naturally find their way into government. //   

       ... by being elected.
8th of 7, Jun 18 2012
  

       I doubt that governments, well Western governments anyway, can organise themselves sufficiently to manage a decent conspiracy.   

       The former East German and, to a lesser extent, Soviet governments, could manage a conspiracy. East Germany employed 250,000 of its 17 million people in internal espionage. THAT is a conspiracy.
UnaBubba, Jun 18 2012
  

       //a little too whipped up over the idea that the g- men are always listening.//   

       There's an interesting experiment to be done here. First, it requires that you devise an original and truly hilarious joke which contains several suspicion- arousing phrases. Second, you email said joke to yourself. Third, wait to see how long it takes before you hear the joke being circulated.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 18 2012
  

       Somebody close to me works for one of the three-letter agencies and has a very high clearance, if not quite the salary to match, so I too am aware of the stupefyingly wasteful incompetence and bungling that goes on at every level. For the same reason, I know what it is like to undergo government scrutiny; it isn't subtle. It doesn't have to be. Whenever it's time for this person's semi-random security screening, a call will come from a person identifying themselves and explaining the reason for the call. They ask some questions. I answer the questions. We both get on with our lives. That is why I am so certain that, despite my inherent distrust of the powers that be, the average citizen who is not a part of a long-term criminal conspiracy has no more to fear than a phone call and a list of questions. Why? Because it's cheaper than planting listening devices in the crawlspace, it's legal (BION, some feds actually still care about that), and they'll learn just as much pertinent information.
Alterother, Jun 18 2012
  

       Yes, what [UnaBubba] said. Thank you.
Alterother, Jun 18 2012
  

       Governments in democracies (whatever they are these days) are bound by strictures that totalitarian regimes are not. For instance, judicial and parliamentary oversight procedures, consumer advocacy agencies and the press.   

       The pressure on government agencies and their staff to do things in a way that is transparent and legal is exactly the same pressure that sees apparent concessions granted to people we all know are probably bad but we feel should get a "fair go" anyway. The detainees, past and present, of the US facility at Guantanamo Bay are a case in point.   

       We all know they were swept up for a reason but the US government was playing hardball on disclosure and access to due process. In the melee, the US did itself a lot of damage diplomatically, by refusing to allow the citizens of other countries the same rights as its own. It's a basic tenet of international law that you treat everyone on your soil in the same way.   

       Claiming that Gitmo was "not on US soil" was disingenuous and stupid. If a Cuban soldier tries stepping on that patch of "not US soil" then there will be a brief and bloody gun battle, I would imagine.
UnaBubba, Jun 18 2012
  

       Every now and then I look at my overall List of Ideas posted here at the HalfBakery, and see something old that has acquired new relevance. Given the ongoing NSA scandal, this Idea appears to be one of the "newly relevant" ones....
Vernon, Nov 04 2013
  
      
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