The Diaspora Yatra

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard Just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS† Friend: What? How’d you manage that one? Zuck: People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They “trust me” Dumb *ucks.
The Zuck in the above conversation is Mark Zuckerberg. And they are talking about Facebook. It is a fact universally acknowledged and admitted by Facebook itself that it sells data of and about its users. In the movie Matrix, the machines use humans as their power source feeding into their brains a computer-generated dreamworld to keep them under control. Facebook’s product is its users. To keep them occupied with frivolous stories Facebook makes up algorithms, creates filter bubbles, digs up stories from the past, makes deleting the account extremely hard, sends SMS notifications when they remain logged out for a while, and even influences their emotions by manipulating what they see. Despite all the evil sins of modern day spying networks, the control they exert on the Web has grown to dictatorial extends that saying “No” to their terms is becoming impossible for everyone. Yet, that is exactly what the members of a fast growing community of diaspora* users are telling them. Diaspora is a free software that powers the diaspora* social network – a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network. Its three main tenets are decentralization, freedom, and privacy. Anyone can install Diaspora on their own server (diaspora pod) and have complete control over their data. All such pods can communicate with each other, just like email. By nature the network is resistant to take-downs and censorship. Diaspora and other privacy aware software like Cryptocat, TextSecure, GPG, are real alternatives to the insecure, proprietary communication software in the market today. But unfortunately, the number of people who are aware of these and make use of these is incredibly small. That is why a team of Indian diaspora users started “Diaspora Yatra”, a campaign which aims to promote diaspora* and good privacy practices. Diaspora Yatra has completed 3 weeks in Kerala visiting schools, colleges, libraries, and other public spaces. Pirate Praveen and others are holding discussions, debates, and workshops to engage people – students, teachers, workers, advocates, all who turn up – and to make them think about privacy. People welcome their initiative and some do stop doing what is convenient and start doing what is right. Diaspora yatra team are frequently asked questions like “what happens to security if communications cannot be intercepted by the government?” They are ready with answers like “Does giving up privacy guarantee security?”. Curious school students wonder who gets to see their photos and who does not, and more importantly how they can control it. Lawyers talk about whether pod admins should be moderating the content on their pod, whether that’ll be equivalent to censorship. These are signs for hope. People are slowly beginning to ask important questions about privacy, security, freedom, etc. It will soon be impossible for corporate entities to wield unfair control over what one does on the Web. Assuming we all say “no” to unsavory practices and stand up for an open Web. *** Diaspora Yatra is scheduled to continue till March 6. To know more about it, visit the Diaspora Yatra website or follow the #diasporayatra tag in Diaspora.
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Vidyut

Founder at Aam Janata
Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.
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2 thoughts on “The Diaspora Yatra

  1. The fact that you’re the ONLY person on my twitter timeline to have written about diaspora recently—I’m just about to follow you everywhere. Is that too fanboyishly creepy?

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