Turkey Is Building Domestic Replacements For Gmail and Google

from the national-culture-and-values dept

Turkey has a long history of blocking Internet services. It’s become such a thing, there’s even a site called TurkeyBlocks that is exclusively about this phenomenon. A couple of recent stories on the site suggest the Turkish government is aiming to tighten its local control over the online world even more. First, in order to prevent people circumventing social media shutdowns, the Turkish authorities are going after Tor:

The Turkey Blocks internet censorship watchdog has identified and verified that restrictions on the Tor anonymity network and Tor Browser are now in effect throughout Turkey. Our study indicates that service providers have successfully complied with a government order to ban VPN services.

But even that is not enough it seems. Here’s the latest plan:

Turkey is building a domestic search engine and email service compatible with national culture and values, according to statements made by Ahmet Arslan, Minister of Communication, in a television interview on Friday.

Minister Arslan explained the urgency of the plans in the live show on NTV, citing the need to store user data within the country and ensure that communications can be analysed domestically. Details such as the service’s name, logo and organisation structure have yet to be announced.

It’s interesting to see data localization being invoked here, just as it was in Russia. Fear of surveillance by the US seems to be one reason for the move, but the second part about allowing communications to be “analysed domestically” is also noteworthy. It could be a reflection of the fact that Gmail uses encrypted connections that prevent the Turkish authorities from monitoring who is saying what. One obvious step would be to ban Gmail and Google completely in Turkey in order to force people there to use the new domestic offerings. That would allow the government to monitor its citizens more closely, and to control the flow of online data more strictly.

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Comments on “Turkey Is Building Domestic Replacements For Gmail and Google”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 (look of disbelief)

Don’t forget about Daesh (ISIS), after all it’s common knowledge that every “terrorist” in Turkey is simultaneously a member of Daesh and the PKK even though those two groups hate each other much worse than either of them hates the Erdoğan regime. (Of course we could question the extent to which Daesh and the Erdoğan regime are actually enemies at all, but then again pretending to fight Daesh as a pretext for fighting one’s actual enemies is what more or less every foreign combatant has been doing in Syria, so maybe Americans living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.)

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Orwell would be shocked to find out that he was laying out a roadmap that would be carefully followed by others.

IoT devices: the new telescreens.

They’re always listening in your home. Amazon Echo even has a button used to notify Amazon that you’re about to talk about something particularly interesting.

How similar are telescreens to smart TVs equipped with a mic and camera for video conferencing?

Snowden revealed the government is always listening, and saves everything just in case it is needed later. After all, it’s not a privacy violation if they merely store it and don’t search it.

Don’t forget the whole spiel about secret courts, warrants, arrests, secret trials, secret evidence, convictions, secret prisons, etc. And for profit prisons. New for profit policing.

It’s really happening. What affect will the incoming administration have?

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Well, it is a streamlinging effort..

It would eliminate the need for judicial approval and/or NSLs before accessing the data.
The permission to let the government search through your email and search history can be given in the TOS while a law can be introduced that forced everyone to use this service.
Citizen rights are unimportant (at least, until the `unimaginable’ loss of an election occurs…).

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is encrypted email so hard still?

Only tangentially related to the article, but every time I think about the likes of Google and Yahoo and Microsoft controlling a significant portion of email traffic I wonder why we still don’t have easy to use email encryption. I wouldn’t expect it to be difficult for the developers at any one those companies to come up with a simple pgp implementation that is easy to use. We are past the point of needing it just from the perspective of protecting personal financial information and reducing spam by allowing signed messages.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is encrypted email so hard still?

I guess you’re better off running your own TLS-enabled web server with a simple form element instead of email.

Just ask people to contact you at https://example.com/contact and whenever you send an email send an email to them saying:

You’ve got a new message at https://example.com/messages/1 (maybe use something like ZeroBin)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is encrypted email so hard still?

Key management and key validation. You nneed to be able associate separate key with sending and receiving communication with each person you wish to communicate with. Also, even with a secure public key management system, you need to validate via some other means, that the key you are using actually belong to the person you are communicating with, and not some man in the middle who is relaying you messages.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Why is encrypted email so hard still?

You seriously don’t know the answer to this?

Yes, it would be easy for them to setup such a system. The issue is that if they encrypt your e-mail then they can’t scan them to place “more relevant ads”. They need to be able to read your e-mail for their business model to work. These services are not “free” you pay for it with the contents of your e-mails.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is encrypted email so hard still?

Encrypted emails shuts gmail, yahoo and the like out of the loop and makes data analysis impossible. This is a huge revenue stream and they are not interested in cutting it of. Add to this that average Joe does not care about it and you have a service that

a) Cost them money to develop
b) Removes a revenue stream
c) Very few users care about

A very bad combination. I would suggest you look up something else. Protonmail works and is easy to set up. You get a small mailbox (500mb, no folders, no IMAP support) for free. Want more, it will cost you ~5$ a month. It is not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination as of now. Normal PGP support is not there for example, but they are getting there. They have however really nailed the “easy to use” part. You really don’t notice encryption is used

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh yeah?

I am reminded of the frequent ignorant comments posted to stories about government censorship that go something like “No worries, they can never censor the internet … blah blah blah … people will just use VPN’s or TOR or … blah blah blah … they can’t/won’t ever block those … blah blah blah …”.

Oh yeah?

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