A coalition of major websites including Tumblr, Wikipedia, and Wordpress are announcing a switch to SSL encryption as part of today’s Reset the Net campaign, a day of activism on the one year anniversary of the publishing of Edward Snowden’s first National Security Agency leaks. These companies account for hundreds of million websites, including some of the most popular on the Internet.

When you browse the Internet, you leave traces. When SSL encryption is activated, which is indicated in your browser's URL bar by a Web address that starts with “https” and a lock icon, your browsing activity is protected from surveillance carried out by governments, corporations, and hackers.

The Reset the Net campaign is pushing for the mass adoption of encryption as a tool to fight mass surveillance.

Encryption makes surveillance much more expensive and harder to carry out, security expert Bruce Schneier told attendees of the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) in New York City today. “That’s a fundamentally economic argument but it works,” he said.

This week, Snowden released a statement supporting the Reset the Net campaign, calling it a way that  citizens can "take back" their privacy.

"Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same," Snowden wrote. "This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations.

“We have to create a mass encryption movement,” Jillian York, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the PDF crowd. Instead of preaching to the choir and catering to technologists, cryptographers have to think first and foremost about user experience so that any layman can protect themselves online.

“Reporters often ask us if sites are blacking out the way they did for SOPA,” Reset the Net organizer Tiffiniy Cheng told the PDF crowd. “That was a metaphorical blackout, this [SSL encryption] is a real black out.”

Photo by IntelFreePress/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)