The schedule of the upcoming 31C3 Chaos Communication Congress (December 27-30, CCH Congress Centre, Hamburg), seems to prove whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg right when he said: “Courage is contagious”. The internationally well-known yearly conference and hacker party running since 1984, is organised by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), who calls themselves “one of the longest established and most influential civil society organisations dealing with the security and privacy aspects of technology in the German-speaking world” (www.ccc.de).
Since its beginning in 1981, the CCC has actively worked to promote freedom of information and communication, struggled for greater transparency in governments and supported the principles of the hacker ethic, such as free access to technology and computers for everybody. Wau Holland, one of the CCC co-founders who passed away in 2001, described the 1981 meeting of various people in the rooms of Die Tageszeitung (taz) newspaper, which for many is considered crucial for the foundation of the CCC in an interview:
“When we left we were enthusiastic. We saw that there was the possibility to exactly determine the electrical energy consumption of a city like Berlin, or do a census of the vacant houses and distribute this data to occupation movements. We understood that the people who have the power in this society derive part of this power from data processing, and that not only the police or ‘power’ could use the databases, but we could do it too” (Decoder, 1989).
At the upcoming CCC Congress, Wau Holland’s idea of ‘social hacking’ – exchanging social ideas and social inventions with other people –, is carried on by many members of the German and international hacker community, addressing issues of public interest connected with a conscious and aware use of technology. The main tracks of the conference are linking hacking with art and culture, ethics, society and politics, making and crafting, security and science. Both for people interested in better understanding the geopolitical dimension of technology usage after the Snowden disclosures, and for hands-on enthusiasts that want to get from theory into practice, we have excellent speakers worth the trip to Hamburg:
Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, with Nadia Heninger and Julia Angwin, will give the presentation “Crypto Tales from the Trenches” (27.12, 23:00) about the usage of cryptography and privacy enhancing technologies, and about their limits. Together with security analyst and developer Jacob Appelbaum, Poitras will also cover a range of popular narratives about the Surveillance State, while reconstructing them from the point of view of providing “transparency in the service of justice” (28.12, 20:30). The Courage Acting Director of WikiLeaks Sara Harrison, and the Jeremy Hammond campaign manager Grace North will discuss the importance of protecting sources of sensitive information not only before publishing, but most of all after, when the media radar is off, and they are more vulnerable (28.12, 23:00). American bestselling author and journalist James Bamford will provide an insight of “A century of secret deals between the NSA and the telecom industry” (27.12, 12:45), while the member of the band Atari Teenage Riot, Berliner Alec Empire, will give a keynote speech immediately after the opening event (27.12, 12:00). In the Art & Culture track net.artist Olia Lialina will introduce pearls of the early web culture of the 1990s in her talk “The Only Thing We Know About Cyberspace Is That It’s 640×480” (29.12, 16:00). If you have ever wondered who is watching you while you are reading your favourite media online, Claudio Agosti will present the project Trackography (29.12, 22:00). If you are into science, the talk “Living Drones” by Anja Drephal will describe physical drones usage, from pigeons in 1914 to cyborg moths today. Finally, if you want an overview of the year most important hacker issues, some of the CCC Congress organisers, Frank Rieger, Linus Neumann, Gerd Eist and “heckpiet”, will give their personal insights (29.12, 12:45).
In addition, in the Art & Culture track, as pointed out by one of the organisers Mey Lean Kronemann, “there will not only be lectures, but loads to see and smell and hear and feel. For instance, I am looking forward to try out BeAnotherLab’s ‘Machine To Be Another’, a virtual-reality-installation that allows users to virtually switch bodies in a telepresence experience. Just like last year, there will be a Seidenstrasse pneumatic tube system, so visitors will not only be able to send (and receive) bits and bytes via the usual super-hyper-speed WiFi, but also ‘real’ things – be it cookies, hard drives or – onions (Seidenstrasse supports onion routing). Still not sure whether you should visit 31C3? Think you’re not enough of a ‘hacker’, don’t know enough coding or cracking? No problem, the ‘Chaospatinnen’ will take you by the hand. Just like last year, we’re offering a mentee system to encourage people to visit the Congress”.
Edward Snowden, in his speech at the Whistle-blower Award last year (delivered by Jacob Appelbaum in Snowden’s absence) said: “Governments must be accountable to us for the decisions that they make. Decisions regarding the kind of world we will live in. What kinds of rights and freedoms individuals will enjoy are the domain of the public, not the government in the dark”. You can start by enjoying the next CCC Congress, and you will be already on the right path.