I used to nudge people toward encrypting their emails. “Encrypt everything!” I’d burble. “Even your cookie recipes! It protects privacy and drives ‘them’ crazy!”
“Quick! Easy!” I continued to burble as I wrote “The Hardyville Beginner’s Guide to Encrypt**n” lo those many years ago (now obsolete, which is why no link).
I eventually quit burbling.
It’s not that I quit favoring encryption. I just got tired of hearing, “It’s too haaaaaaaaaaard.” I got tired of, “Well, if you want me to encrypt my emails to you, you’ll have to show me how.”
Since I might have been the only person they knew who wanted encrypted correspondence, the latter wasn’t entirely unreasonable. Just incredibly time-consuming and very difficult, since everyone’s system was different.
I still encrypt email with old friends. But I gave up the evangelizing (though encryption does get a passing mention in Rats!, the anti-snitch book). It’s been so long since I added a new encryption partner that this week when Michael W. Dean raised the subject and sent me his key, I’d almost forgotten how to add it to my keyring.
But. Let’s try this again. Michael (yeah, we’re seeing a lot of him this week) commissioned a couple of guys to write an email encryption tutorial and a couple other guys to reality check it.
Here it is. On Freedom Feens. It’s good.
Yes, it has a lot of steps. They aren’t hard steps. If you use the Thunderbird mail client, you’ve already done most of them.
The tutorial cuts through a lot of encryption confusion by just assuming that you will set up and use Thunderbird and its Enigmail plugin. It assumes well. Once you’ve set up encryption, Thunderbird and Enigmail make using encryption virtually effortless. (So effortless, in fact, that it’s easy to forget whether you’ve encrypted an email or not. Yeah, ask me about that one. But there are settings to help with that.)
It also instructs you to use the encryption software GPG4Win (GNU Privacy Guard for Windows). “It’s free! It’s EZ!” I burble.
If you don’t use Windows, you can get other GPG versions here. It’s free. It’s not quite so EZ. But non-Windowsians are used to that. (Use the manual, not one of the HOWTOs; HOWTOs are just strange documents computer geeks use to communicate with each other while totally baffling the rest of us. But the manual is actually useful.)
Back to the Freedom Feens tutorial. It’s good. “Easy!” I burble again.
And most of the setup is the same, no matter what operating system you’re on.
It’s always been hard to get started because it takes two to encrypt. Maybe your 90-year-old maiden aunt will never do it. But for heaven’s sake, if you genuinely want to protect your privacy (and not just yammer about its loss), you should. And so should the people you regularly correspond with — even if you’re discussing things you consider innocuous.
If you don’t already have friends who encrypt, maybe we can get some volunteers to serve as encryption guinea pigs. Then once you know you’re set up for secure email, maybe you can be coach and guinea pig for your friends.
But for heaven’s sake, if you say you want “them” — the snoops, public or private — out of your life, take this one, simple, long-lasting step to kick their snoopy asses to the curb — encrypt!