Because the digitised world is growing in size and complexity every day, because its impact on our planet is becoming more and more important, because control and surveillance devices are penetrating ever further into the privacy of our lives, support the association that defends fundamental rights and freedoms in the digital age: make a donation to La Quadrature du Net!
48,78% of the support we need for 2024.
What our main battles will be in 2024?
And yet, just when we thought this right was a foregone conclusion, many executives claim that encryption and confidentiality of communications would be a problem in themselves. By instrumentalizing any subject that comes along, governments try to weaken it, or even put an end to it. Faced with these multiple attacks, La Quadrature du Net will redouble its efforts in 2024 to reverse this trend, by reiterating the fundamental nature of the right to encryption, by making it clear to members of parliament in France and Brussels that its protection should be a matter of course, and by working to make it a permanent feature of everyone’s daily life.
After a long battle, encryption was liberalized in the late 1990s. It was initially a military technology controlled by states and now it has become a tool available to everyone.Encryption protocols are everywhere: in secure banking transactions, in our connections to websites, in online storage services or even in instant messengers like Signal or even Facebook’s proprietary private messenger WhatsApp. Many institutions, such as the UN, the ANSSI (French Cybersecurity Agency), the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) or the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority) promote this technology to ensure the security of our life online.
And yet, for the past ten years or so, political leaders have regularly criticized this technology, arguing that it prevents them from accessing the information content needed for police investigations. And recently, these attacks have intensified. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, the minister of interior claims that encrypted messaging would be one of the main obstacles to arresting terrorists or monitoring environmental activists. In his view, a “backdoor” should therefore be created in these applications. We’ve been saying it all along: introducing a backdoor would undermine the level of protection of all communications. If a loophole is created for the authorities of one state, it will then be available to all other actors (other states, criminal organizations, hackers…). Encryption is a security measure, breaking it would make the digital world vulnerable and nobody has an interest in that.
As for the European Commission, it has proposed the “Chat Control” regulation (or “CSAR”) which would impose the mass surveillance of all our communications and the circumvention of encryption with the stated aim of detecting child sexual abuse content. For this institution, as well as for the many associations and companies lobbying for the adoption of this text, such a generalized analysis of our exchanges would be the only solution to protect children from abuse.
In order to counter this distorted discourse and prevent the door from being opened to this new form of surveillance, an intensive campaign against this text is underway in Brussels, led by a coalition of organizations we are part of.
Finally, in the “December 8” affair, the French antiterrorist justice used the old shortcut between encryption and clandestinity. According to intelligence services and judges, the fact that the defendants were using tools like Signal would be an evidence of the desire to conceal criminal actions, so they included these elements among the prosecution grounds.
As we can see, the dominant discourse tends to give a distorted version of what encryption actually is: a simple modality of the right to protect one’s privacy. So that we can face these battles and defend the right to encryption, don’t hesitate to make us a donation!
Fight against social control algorithms
While, for most of us, assigning scores to people in order to rank, reward or punish them is the preserve of dystopian films and authoritarian regimes, these methods are developing in complete opacity in “Western democracies”.
In France, it was the Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF) which, in 2011, was the first administration to use an algorithm for rating benefit recipients. This algorithm assigns each claimant a risk-score, or “suspicion score”, which is used to select those who are “untrustworthy” and therefore need to be checked.
Every month, this algorithm shuffles the personal data of more than 30 million people, i.e. almost one in two French residents living in a household receiving assistance from the CAF. The data initially collected to ensure the smooth running of our social security system is being misused to create the biggest surveillance system France has ever seen.
We are working hard to gather information and denounce the dangers of these social control practices in France. In 2024, we plan to make this one of our main battles, alongside various other organisations.
A pioneer in the use of “risk scoring” the CAF was quickly followed by other administrations as the far-right discourse on “the fight against welfare” spread. Under the impetus of the Cour des Comptes and the Direction Nationale de Lutte contre le Fraude, similar algorithms were gradually adopted by Pôle Emploi, the Assurance Maladie, the Assurance Vieillesse and the tax authorities.
These algorithms are being developed in total secrecy, supported by a discourse of “efficiency”, “rationalization” and “the fight against fraud”. Yet these algorithms automate and amplify already existing discrimination. They also make it more difficult to appeal against sanctions, and contribute to the dehumanization of relations between public administrations and the beneficiaries of their services. Not to mention that to develop, feed and perfect these algorithms, more and more of our personal data is exploited, in a process of digitally exposing everyone.
Since 2021, we have been alerted by various groups. We began to look at the human consequences of “dematerialization” at Pôle Emploi, the french unemployment office. From there, we began to investigate the use of risk scoring algorithms at the family branch of the french welfare system, the CAF.
These systems have only one aim: to sort us out in order to control us better. So to help us put an end to these discriminating and dehumanizing practices of generalized surveillance, help us continue the work and make a donation to La Quadrature!
To enable users to escape the captivity imposed by commercial social networks, we have been trying since 2019 to force them to become interoperable i.e. to enable people with an account on their service to communicate with people on other similar services, and even to escape them by moving to other services while keeping the link with their contacts.
To this end, every time a law which deals with online content regulation is debated in the French National Assembly or the European Parliament, we push for the tabling of amendments making the integration of an interoperability protocol mandatory for large social media.
In 2024, we intend to continue this advocacy work and campaign to promote interoperability to the general public.
In recent years, we have seen a succession of laws aimed at regulating the Internet and more particularly social networks: french “Hate” law, french “Fake news” law, European antiterrorist regulation… The motivation to make such laws was the virality of “false information”, “hateful comments” or even “terrorist content” on social networks. In all of these laws the solution proposed is the same: the obligation for social networks to censor the “illicit” content they host. In certain cases, this withdrawal obligation is imposed within such a short period of time that algorithmic filtering solutions — i.e. where an algorithm scans the content and identifies (often completely wrongly) those which should be blocked — becomes mandatory. In addition to not being a feasible solution for non-commercial players who do not have the means, these algorithms are not desirable since they are trained by very poorly paid people, exposed to very large volumes of violent content — this is the case at Facebook for example.
Most of these problems come from the fact that commercial social networks are shaped to be addictive and obsessive, to ensure that users stay there as long as possible and see the advertising as much as possible.All these things are not a consequence of social networks themeselves, they are due to the commercial nature of social network financed by advertising.
With each of these laws, we tried to initiate another way of regulating the online content: by demanding mandatory interoperability for large commercial social networks.
By redistributing the power of setting the rules of online spaces and redestributing the moderation work on smaller scales, virality would be reduced to its core functioning without being artificially boosted via algorithms.
Interoperability would also imply a decentralization of moderation, done by humans with a much better understanding of interactions than a generic algorithm. Hate messages, harassment, violent posts would be more easily blocked in their virality.
In this way, at the same time, a wide variety of moderation regimes could exist: from the strictest, for communities needing to access a “safe” space while chatting with outsiders, to the most permissive moderation regime.
Interoperability wouldn’t make Internet exchanges perfect in the blink of an eye, but it would make this possible as people choose to extract themselves from commercial social networks and move towards social networks whose operating rules suit them better.
To find out more about the interoperability of social networks, see the page summarizing our thoughts on the subject. And to help La Quadrature fight social network censorship and promote interoperability, don’t hesitate to make a donation!
Rethinking digital technology in times of ecological emergency
The paths to curbing the ecological disaster caused by the overproduction of technology and the constant encouragement of capitalist digital consumption patterns are too often confined to individual acts with negligible effectiveness.
Yet questions about the links between ecology and digital technology are legitimate and necessary. And that’s exactly what we want to work on in 2024, by going out to meet those who are already thinking about these issues and taking action, to feed our own thinking and move forward collectively.
These questions about the links between ecology and digital technology can take many forms:
– whether it’s a question of making visible what digital seeks to invisibilize, its very concrete infrastructures, imposing a heavy extraction of resources, deteriorating the territories and populations where by imposing an industrial scale of exploitation,
– whether it’s about fighting against forced dematerialization which generates additional data tracking, generally having no real use since it only serves surveillance and advertising (which in turn pollute our world and our lives),
– whether it’s a question of thinking about what should be dismantled/destroyed, what should be hacked, recovered, reused, and above all what should be created and invented as desirable means of communication,
– or whether it’s a question of highlighting and supporting free, decentralized and self-managed alternatives, the culture of sharing and doing-together to build and maintain digital commons, and fighting against what hinders them (patents, DRM, private licenses); these are just some of the topics we’d like to focus on now and in the coming year.
Basically, digital technology is no different from other techniques: from mechanics to electronics, from chemistry to algorithms, we certainly need to reinvent modes of tool production and maintenance correlated to our real needs, taking into account existing strengths and means but also planetary limits. What if we were to forget our reflex of exploiting living beings and nature, as well as the sacrosanct “right to undertake”, and make the fantasy of innovation as an end in itself – the one that would spontaneously solve all the world’s problems – obsolete?
We could then have a look to low-tech (what if we did with less, with fewer “innovations” and less high-tech, but also less surveillance and file-keeping, for example?), slow-tech (do we really need to be connected all the time? ), technological disobedience and de-tech (what if we dismantled the most harmful infrastructures, those that make us addicted but ultimately not happy?). We could also go and meet self-managed networks, hackerspaces, those collectives that strive to reduce the ecological footprint of digital technologies, we could draw inspiration from them for concrete modes of action to reinvent technologies and digital uses that take ecological issues into account.
In any case, that’s what we at want to do over the coming months and years La Quadrature, and one thing’s for sure: we’re going to meet some great people and gain in collective intelligence.
So, are you ready to follow us on these paths and, as the Zapatistas say, “walk by questioning”?
If so, don’t hesitate to join us on our channel, and if you can, to support us!
Why make a donation this year?
For the coming year, we’re aiming to raise €262,000 in donations, including existing monthly donations, and new donations (monthly or one-time payment) that will come in during this new campaign.
As explained above, your support will help us to promote encryption, defend interoperability, fight against social control algorithms, help us to rethink the digital world in times of ecological crisis, but also to continue our work on other current issues and actions, and to keep up with the ever-increasing volume of digital news.
What are your donations for?
We have a fantastic team of volunteer members, but we also need a payed-staff team.
Donations will be used primarily to pay the salaries of our permanent staff (75% of our expenses). Other costs to be covered include rent and upkeep of the premises, travel in France and abroad (only by train), campaigns and events expenses, as well as the various expenses inherent in any militant activity (posters, stickers, paper, printer, t-shirts, etc.).
If we split our 2023 expenses (including salaries) according to the time spent by every person on every topic, the result looks like this:
What are our sources of funding?
The association does not receive any public funding, but receives 40% of its ressources from various philanthropic foundations: the Fondation pour le progrès de l’Homme, the Un monde par tous foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Limelight Foundation and the Digital Freedom Fund.
The rest of our income depends on your donations. So, please help us if you can!
Please note that as explained in the FAQ on our website, donations to La Quadrature are not tax-deductible, as the tax authorities have twice refused us this option.
How can I make a donation?
There are many ways to make a donation: by credit card, by cheque, or by bank transfer.
And if you can afford a monthly donation — even a small one! — don’t hesitate, they’re our favorite ones: monthly donations guarantee us a regular income throughout the year and enable us to work with greater confidence in the sustainability of our actions.
What’s more, your cumulative donations entitle you to free gifts (bag, T-shirt, sweatshirt). Please note that delivery is not automatic: you need to log in and make a request on your personal donor page. And if the rewards take a little while to arrive (which is not uncommon), it’s because we’re busy, or waiting for restocking in certain sizes, and also because we do it all ourselves with our little hands. But they always arrive in the end!
Thanks again for your generosity, and many thanks for your patience <3
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