Observe. Hack. Make 2013: time to get subtle

From July 27 to yesterday I was on vacation, including 5 days near Amsterdam for the OHM -Observe, Hack, Make- camp.
I attended many talks and workshops. Here is a summary of.. my summaries.

  • Digital security is complicated. 

Giving advice to activists whose safety depends on digital security is even more complicated. Only saying “use Free Software / encrypt your data and communications / use strong passwords” is simplistic. One also has to take into account the efficiency parameter, as well as the physical and moral, psycho-social components of security. This is an interesting one: if advising not to use (or scaring activists away from) Skype and Facebook leads to their social isolation, to loneliness, depression, moral fatigue or paranoia, it is clearly not a good solution. To save the future, you may still need to talk on Skype to your parents or lover from time to time, because they give you the strength to keep advocating.Everything depends on risk assessment: is exposing your social network endangering it?

Is seems obvious, but carrying on a political struggle through the internet in Berlin, Lomé or Tunis is very different. Do people have their personal computer there? What do local laws say about activism? What kind of technology are people using around the person who needs help? What kind of activity does this activist actually do? Documenting protests or attacks / writing essays / organising people / blowing the whistle.. those actions rely on different tech and have different purpose. For some, one needs to securely gather information from many external sources. For others one needs to reach an audience as wide as possible.

The various workshops I intended about digital security have enriched and clarified my thoughts, thanks to fairly simple concepts. There isn’t one secure way of using technology. I will remember it next time I talk with my friends about their computers: stay practical, understand the risk, understand your priorities and vulnerabilities.

An other conclusion: we need to care about our digital security BEFORE we face actual danger and repression. I would like to say before we are under surveillance but it’s probably too late for that one.

  • KISS

One line of code can cause big vulnerabilities in an operating system. I understand better the KISS principle – for software. After long discussions about life, the universe and everything, I definitely don’t think that it applies to all other areas. We need some fun too 😀

  • Whistle blowing

The US already abuses its surveillance powers to harass and destroy the lives of whistle blowers. Less well known that Snowden and Manning, the cases of Jesselyn Radack and Thomas Drake were impressive. Intimidation, sanctions taken without any legal reasons, smear campaigns… New examples showing that surveillance gives disproportionate power to people in power, and that they do, and will abuse it to protect their privileges.

  • Make a choice

Simple way to link the pro-privacy and copyright reform actions:
Internet, Privacy, Copyright. You can have two of those, but not three. What do you choose?

  • .. as usual..

Of course, the best part of the event wasn’t the talks and workshops. Beloved old friends, great new friends and contacts, discussion, ideas, care and tea. Thanks for being awesome.