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Small Sister Project launched to fight Big Brother

Dutch privacy activist launches Web site designed to make it easy for anyone to use privacy protection tools online.

A Dutch hacker activist and journalist has launched the Small Sister Project, which is designed to help consumers counter the privacy invasions of Big Brother.

Brenno de Winter launched his project on Saturday with the aim of making it easier for people to keep their online communications safe from the prying eyes of governments around the world. A case in point is the European Data Retention Directive that is being adopted by countries in the EU. It requires that ISPs and phone companies retain data for several years.

"The system starts to monitor people and draw inferences out of that and those inferences might hinder you. Like the no-fly list in the U.S.," says de Winter. "You don't know what they do with the information and there's no way to defend yourself."

As an example, de Winter says he blocks tons of e-mail from Pakistan that is spam, but authorities looking at ISP logs don't know that it is spam and that he is blocking it.

There are privacy tools available now, like the Tor anonymity network, the Freenet Project and PGP encryption software, but they aren't necessarily easy to use for the non-tech savvy citizen. De Winter says he is looking to bundle products so they are pre-configured and easy to install. He says he will initially focus on basic privacy tools, such as e-mail encryption.

"We might have to develop our own technology as well, but we don't want to reinvent the wheel," he says.