Who We Are & What We're About...
Baneki Privacy Labs has been around since 2007. We seek to act as a go-between to connect frontline activists from a diverse set of social movements with the most current expertise coming out of the cryptographic, OpSec, & cyber conflict communities. Our specific focus is on systems, techniques, and technologies that can stand up to escalating levels of real-world threat scenarios and adversaries - as opposed to largely theoretical discussions about what "should" or "might" work. We closely track those on the front lines of conflict with heavily-resourced digital adversaries - people facing heavy surveillance targeting, for example, by state-level entities - and work to distill learnings from their experience into tangible advice, tools, and systems for dissidents to use in their daily work.
We're nonprofit - a collective, in truth, not an "organization" in any formal sense - and as such we don't have any particular axe to grind when it comes to what works. That said, we're not hesitant to spin out projects into the commercial world that provide services and/or tools we feel are important in the constellation of defensive scenario management. Most notably, we've been closely integrated into the cryptostorm darknet project (cryptostorm.is/cryptostorm.org) since its earliest days back in 2007. Today, we maintain an active & complimentary relationship with the cryptostorm project - several core cryptostorm team members also volunteer as part of Baneki's collective, and cryptostorm routinely provides financial & resource backing for Baneki-sponsored projects or operations... although naturally we also reach out to other commercial entities as is appropriate.
On a philosophical level, Baneki embodies the belief that technology - digital technology, and cryptosystems in particular - can and are quite visibly helping to re-level the playing field between resource-rich global elites and (this is our niche, most notably) oppressed minority groups worldwide. That ever-shifting scale between those with power who use that power to assault non-powerful target populations, and those targeted groups who seek to sustain their cultural and social autonomy amidst attack from external forces, has in recent decades shifted heavily in favour of the powerful. Our work seeks to assist in shifting it back, because a world under the thumb of the entrenched power of a permanent elite will end in a charred cinder orbiting the Sun. We're not speaking hyperbolically, or metaphorically here - if we don't tip the scales of diversity - human and biological, more broadly - back to a better balance, and soon, this planet will continue down its ecocidal path towards ruin for all its living systems, species, and individuals.
So that's what motivates our team, at a deeper level.
In tangible terms, we're the place people go when they know their ass is on the line and they don't have some big entity to hold their hand. Groups and individuals marginalized from the technological elite can find access to that knowledge via Baneki - our role is to serve, and to spread tested knowledge far and wide. Think of us as Johnny Appleseeds of battle-tested network technology and tactics (and, if you don't already know, the history of Johnny Appleseed and what he was up to is far more interesting that we mostly learned as kids; cite - Michael Pollan).
Our work in enabling the survival of targeted minorities means that we, inevitably, come under fire from those who seek easy access to their victims - and thus spin into a frustrated rage when they find themselves blocked from carrying out their pogroms and genocides. We paint that target on ourselves, inevitably. Such is life. We're not in the business of winning the most popular kid in the class award - we're in the business of changing the world, for the better, with hands in the dirt and much of real life. As fairly high-profile "crypto gadflies," it's often the case that we come under fire as part of the work we do. While this isn't an intentional goal sought via our project selection criteria, it's also not something that will, ceteris paribus, keep us from engaging with an otherwise compelling campaign.
On a less glamorous note, we often play a behind-the-scenes role in connecting highly specialised resources and expertise with early-stage projects needing same. Because a decent number of Baneki's active collective members trace roots back into the early years of the digital era, we're sometimes able to facilitate such direct connections quickly and with minimal friction/overhead. This isn't a function we're seeking to "scale" to a bigger capacity; rather, it's inherently specialised & behind the scenes in nature. We're sort of like a high-end Hollywood agent... except we're not in Hollywood, we're not in the business of making money, and we're not ego-driven. Apart from that, quite similar
We don't have a public roster of who participates in the collective itself. Rather, engagement with Baneki is a scalar variable: individuals generally participate in our work to a greater or lesser degree, over time, given their own personal time constraints and the degree of interest they have in current projects. A core team of long-term collective participants keeps the lights on, metaphorically speaking, and generally administers most of the routine, back-end infrastructure. There's no hierarchy, organizational structure (in the formal sense), nor pre-defined roles or expectations for collective participants. Rather, it's an emergent entity - designed and intended as such.
So.. there you go.