Today, it has been exactly 30 years since Germany’s first e-mail was received in Karlsruhe. This anniversary was celebrated with a small event at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). A press conference was organized and students launched 72 helium balloons shaped as 0s and 1s that were arranged to read
0x4B40726C7372756865. (I didn’t actually verify this.) While personally I disapprove of such intentional and needless environmental pollution, it was a great opportunity for us to raise awareness for privacy of e-mail communication and teach people about OpenPGP.
The Young Liberals of Karlsruhe (JuLis) created a leaflet with a short text honoring the success of e-mail but also naming its weaknesses with regard to confidentiality and authenticity. This text was accompanied by the infographic from the Free Software Foundation‘s E-Mail Self-Defense Guide. Instead of handing out the leaflets as usual, we put them into well-sealed envelopes. Equipped with those, we rushed in at the event and handed out the information to interested passers-by and the media. My colleague and I even got interviewed by one of the reporters and could explain to them why using OpenPGP with e-mail is crucial to defend our civilian liberties.
While the event was visited only very sparsely, I hope that the few people we could reach will carry on the message and hopefully, the media will also report about how we can make the future of e-mail more freedom-friendly. The few passers-by reacted interested, maybe because surveillance is currently a hot topic in Germany. Hopefully, we could add our tiny bit to help shift the public discussion from anti-US slogans to solid technical solutions that will actually defend our freedom.
Also read our press release (German) about the event.