Tag: MESH

How long before everyone’s using decentralised messengers?

I first experimented with Linux in 1997. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I was running it as my default operating system.

I hope it doesn’t take as long for something like Briar to be my default messaging app! It’s difficult to make the case for it when everyone’s got WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, or the like.

But the radical, decentralised, approach to privacy that Briar takes is refreshing.

Wildire

Another potential use case scenario for Briar are natural disasters. With the climate crisis getting worse day by day, destruction of critical infrastructure is a problem affecting more and more parts of the world, as the recent floods in Europe and China and the wildfires all around the world have shown.

While Briar can definitively be useful in those situations, its trade-offs in favor of privacy are severely limiting its connectivity capabilities. To make an example, imagine your city just got nearly extinguished by a wildfire, destroying all the telecommunications infrastructure that was once there. Fortunately, you and your friends got Briar installed, so when a friend of you drops by you grasp at the chance and write messages to all your friends in-town. One could think that all those messages get synchronized to your friend’s device, so she can serve as a carrier for your other friends’ messages. Unfortunately, that’s not how Briar works.

As I’ve outlined before, metadata protection is one of Briar’s primary goals. Therefore, Briar doesn’t synchronize messages to your friend Alice with Bob when you meet him in order to not let Bob know that you’re communicating with Alice. This is very useful when you can’t trust even your contacts not to be spying on you, but it’s most likely a huge problem when connectivity is all you want in the face of natural disasters.

This message routing scheme used by Briar is called “single-hop social mesh” because you only ever send messages to your contacts if you have a direct connection to them. During catastrophes you most likely want to have at least “multi-hop social mesh” or yet even better “public mesh” where you share messages not only with your contacts but with anybody using Briar. However, as connectivity improves, privacy gets worse because people will know when you’re communicating with whom.

The good news are that Briar is currently receiving funding to conduct research on supporting other types of mesh. Still it will take a lot of time until something gets implemented in Briar, so all of this should be considered long-term perspectives. Note, though, that this mainly affects private chats and private groups. If you and all your friends are part of a forum (Briar’s “public” version of group chats), Alice will indeed serve as a carrier for your messages sent to that forum.

Source: Confronting Briar with disasters | Nico Alt

Friday fawnings

On this week’s rollercoaster journey, I came across these nuggets:

  • Renata Ávila: “The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control” (CCCB Lab) — “This lawyer and activist talks with a global perspective about the movements that the power of “digital colonialism” is weaving. Her arguments are essential for preventing ourselves from being crushed by the technological world, from being carried away by the current of ephemeral divertemento. For being fully aware that, as individuals, our battle is not lost, but that we can control the use of our data, refuse to give away our facial recognition or demand that the privacy laws that protect us are obeyed.”
  • Everything Is Private Equity Now (Bloomberg) — “The basic idea is a little like house flipping: Take over a company that’s relatively cheap and spruce it up to make it more attractive to other buyers so you can sell it at a profit in a few years. The target might be a struggling public company or a small private business that can be combined—or “rolled up”—with others in the same industry.”
  • Forget STEM, We Need MESH (Our Human Family) — “I would suggest a renewed focus on MESH education, which stands for Media Literacy, Ethics, Sociology, and History. Because if these are not given equal attention, we could end up with incredibly bright and technically proficient people who lack all capacity for democratic citizenship.”
  • Connecting the curious (Harold Jarche) — “If we want to change the world, be curious. If we want to make the world a better place, promote curiosity in all aspects of learning and work. There are still a good number of curious people of all ages working in creative spaces or building communities around common interests. We need to connect them.”
  • Twitter: No, really, we’re very sorry we sold your security info for a boatload of cash (The Register) — “The social networking giant on Tuesday admitted to an “error” that let advertisers have access to the private information customers had given Twitter in order to place additional security protections on their accounts.”
  • Digital tools interrupt workers 14 times a day (CIO Dive) — “The constant chime of digital workplace tools including email, instant messaging or collaboration software interrupts knowledge workers 13.9 times on an average day, according to a survey of 3,750 global workers from Workfront.”
  • Book review – Curriculum: Athena versus the Machine (TES) — “Despite the hope that the book is a cure for our educational malaise, Curriculum is a morbid symptom of the current political and intellectual climate in English education.”
  • Fight for the planet: Building an open platform and open culture at Greenpeace (Opensource.com) — “Being as open as we can, pushing the boundaries of what it means to work openly, doesn’t just impact our work. It impacts our identity.”
  • Psychodata (Code Acts in Education) — “Social-emotional learning sounds like a progressive, child-centred agenda, but behind the scenes it’s primarily concerned with new forms of child measurement.”

Image via xkcd