In recent days, Paul Sieminski from WordPress.com posted a blog entitled “Reset the Net.” It rhymes, it’s catchy, and apparently it had quite a profound effect, as plenty of sites picked up on it, including ThemeSquirrel. The article’s thesis: “We’ll be serving pages only over SSL for all *.wordpress.com subdomains by the end of the year.”
The blog entry starts by noting that one year ago, “We joined the world in shock on learning that governments were spying on internet users around the world… Just as troubling as the revelations themselves is the fact that since last summer, little if anything has changed. Despite a lot of rhetoric, our three branches of government in the United States have not made many concrete steps toward truly protecting citizens from unchecked government surveillance.”
Apparently, WordPress’ parent company, the famed Automattic, has been one of the champions of support for legislation combating mass surveillance. With so many websites powered by WordPress, a call to action by a company as large and as relevant as Automattic could mean quite a change in the industry. When Automattic speaks, the WordPress world listens.
As Sieminski concluded, “If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that encryption, when done correctly, works. If we properly encrypt our sites and devices, we can make mass surveillance much more difficult.”
Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum or what your views are about the place government has in your daily life, the comments on Sieminski’s piece were overwhelmingly in support of WordPress’ actions. One user wrote, “Excellent! This is great news and I support WordPress in its efforts to protect its members,” while another reader added, “Thank you. It is disturbing the lengths governments go and spin it as being to protect their people. They’re just snooping.”
If you’re thinking that the title of Sieminski’s blog sounds familiar, it’s because “Reset the Net” was the name given to a public awareness day that took place on June 5 devoted to privacy and surveillance online. As a pledge you can find on ResetTheNet.org says, “Mass surveillance is illegitimate. I’m taking steps to take my freedoms back and I expect governments and corporations to follow in my footsteps and take steps to stop all mass government surveillance.”
There are a variety of ways to protect yourself on ResetTheNet’s website, including apps focusing on text messaging and phone calls, password protection, and encryption for online discussion. Whether you’re a Mac user, Windows user, or Linux user, you’ll find something on the site of value if you’re interested in privacy.
Even Google is getting into the act. Around the same time that WordPress posted, Google’s team revealed that it had launched a new section of the Transparency Report (pictured at left) focusing on what percentage of e-mail was encrypted in transit. As Google pointed out, “Our data shows that approximately 40 to 50 percent of emails sent between Gmail and other email providers aren’t encrypted.”
Google added, “We’re making available the source code for End-to-End, a Chrome extension. It’s currently in testing and once it’s ready for general use, it will make this technology easier for those who choose to use it.”
Other participants in Reset the Net include Reddit, Mozilla, Greenpeace, Dropbox, and Fight for the Future, which started the campaign in the first place.
Automattic will likely continue to grow in power and influence going forward, as its CEO, Matt Mullenweg, who is also the co-founder of WordPress, was recently quoted as saying, “We still have 70 percent of the web to go” when asked about WordPress’ long-term plans. A man with a vision and, perhaps in this case, a mission.