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> expecting a non-tech-savvy person to understand how data moves around the Internet

Then we - the people that do have the necessary technical knowledge - have a duty to teach them what they need to know. This isn't necessarily "how data moves on the internet". Yes, this can be difficult and tedious, but understanding the risk profile for data/networks is increasingly important as networks become involved in everything.

> they ultimately don't care

Again, it's our duty to teach them why they need to care. This probably shouldn't involve a lecture on networking or data analysis, but instead tailoring an explanation to their personal situation and knowledge.

I don't think it's because they don't understand or because they don't care, it's just overwhelming. Think about it, to have any basic grasp of understanding regarding the security infrastructure of the internet you need to have a basic understanding of network connections, how HTTPS works, how files are stored on your computer, how files are sent across computers, how your average database works etc...

Think about the last time you've tried tinkering with something you're a noob at. Maybe it's deciding that you would try fixing your car engine yourself even though you never were a mechanic. Maybe you decided to make a complicated cake and halfway through you realize that you overestimated your pastry skills. Try to remember the feeling of helplessness you felt at that moment, the "I have no idea what I'm doing and I wish I never had started that in the first place". In my experience that's how 90% of people feel like when trying to do something technical with a computer.

A few weeks ago a colleague from HR asked me if I could make a backup of a computer because it contained some critical stuff and she wanted to be able to restore it later if necessary. I say okay, boot up a debian live USB stick I had lying around and start dd'ing the drive to external storage. When I told her the copy was in progress she told me "but I didn't give you the password?". She was amazed when I told her that I didn't need the windows session password to access the data on the disc. I swear I'm not making it up when I say that she asked me if I was a "hacker".

That made me realize that there are probably many people out there who think their files are safe as long as their Windows password isn't compromised even if the disc is not encrypted. After all, they can't access the files, so surely nobody else can? If Facebook says my photo is deleted, then surely it must be? Why wouldn't it be?

I don't think it's fair to blame these people, we've designed so many strange patterns over the past decades in software that it's difficult to keep track. Maybe having "delete" not actually delete should be considered a dark pattern. Maybe it should even be illegal.

"That made me realize that there are probably many people out there who think their files are safe as long as their Windows password isn't compromised even if the disc is not encrypted."

Of course they assume it. Partly also because windows tells you, if you loose your password, you can no longer access your account, which is bs and they know it and tell you only for "felt Security".

And encryption ... What is that?

Are you sure Windows is not showing you that message because you enabled encryption in your account? They encryption key is itself encrypted with your password, so the warning makes sense.


Yes, very sure, because I recently had to "crack" several non encrypted Windows 10 PC's. And that message amused/angered me very much when it was 5 min work to prove that message wrong.

And how would we do that? Every time I've tried to explain privacy issues to non tech individuals at best they consider me paranoid and at worse a fucking sociopath who doesn't have a FB profile because I can't correlate with other people. I can't carry this burden and I doubt many can.

There have been horror stories over the years about identity theft, even before the emergence of social media. Has this stopped anyone outside our community from posting details about their lives online? I hardly think this whole situation with FB will change anything in the end.

I don't feel I have any obligation/duty towards anyone. If they want my opinion or ask me about an issue I'll gladly inform them. But I won't start a crusade for a better informed society. Internet was supposed to do that and we ended up with videos of cats and wannabe celebrities posing seminude pics on Instagram. Fuck that shit.

Your view is well represented on the Internet, and is perhaps most aptly exemplified by the early jargon word “luser”, and the BOFH phenomenon. I have never, I think, really been prone to such thinking. I have never had a problem talking to ordinary people or users, or felt the immense frustration which many people have vividly described. (Note: I am a sysadmin with approximately 20 years of professional experience, and have always had a user-facing role as at least a part of my job.)

It reminds me where in Zen Buddhism, there are those who become enlightened and go off to do their own thing, and those who become enlightened and stay in the world with the rest of the ordinary unenlightened people. In the words of Alan Watts:

The understanding of Zen, the understanding of awakening, the understanding of– Well, we’ll call it mystical experiences, one of the most dangerous things in the world. And for a person who cannot contain it, it’s like putting a million volts through your electric shaver. You blow your mind and it stays blown. Now, if you go off in that way, that is what would be called in Buddhism a pratyeka- buddha—“private buddha”. He is one who goes off into the transcendental world and is never seen again. And he’s made a mistake from the standpoint of Buddhism, because from the standpoint of Buddhism, there is no fundamental difference between the transcendental world and this everyday world. The bodhisattva, you see, who doesn’t go off into a nirvana and stay there forever and ever, but comes back and lives ordinary everyday life to help other beings to see through it, too, he doesn’t come back because he feels he has some solemn duty to help mankind and all that kind of pious cant. He comes back because he sees the two worlds are the same. He sees all other beings as buddhas. He sees them, to use a phrase of G.K. Chesterton’s, “but now a great thing in the street, seems any human nod, where move in strange democracies a million masks of god.”

— Alan Watts, Lecture on Zen

> ... instead tailoring an explanation to their personal situation and knowledge.

I’ve used this with success several times. Though you generally have to know the person well enough to know their “secrets”.

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