One of my favorite hacker conferences, the Chaos Communication Congress, has just ended. The most famous talk given so far was given by Jacob Appelbaum, who detailed the ways that the NSA can intercept communications. It was an interesting talk if you’re following the NSA scandal, and I recommend you watch it – and since it’s going to be freezing cold out tomorrow, what else are you going to do?
But there are some other wonderful talks to come out of this conference. My personal favorite is called Seeing the Secret State: Six Landscapes. An artist essentially attempts to “see” secrecy by tracking down the remnants that are still part of the non-secret world:
Another great talk is by Kurt Opsahl of the EFF, who details the NSA revelations and their relation to the law. I try to pay attention to this and keep all the codenames straight and I still can’t do it, but this is a great one-hour overview.
Two security researchers look into how governments use third-party tools to monitor journalists and dissidents. This talk focuses on governments that are not the United States, and much of the research is firsthand.
If you want some historical context of how governments have always attempted to surveil their citizens, there are a couple of great talks that touch on the subject. The first is an analysis of surveillance and policing during the Romantic Age, and the second is an even broader look at how/why governments act the way they do – frequently to preserve their own power through technology. Both worth a watch.
Also, learn about how national ID cards are used in China. In a trial city of “only” 10 million, the cards contain information such as medical records and political history, and how this impacts human rights. (Funny how “human rights” is invoked when mass surveillance happens in another country, yet it’s necessary to “prevent terrorism” at home).
There’s more that you should be watching, but the above talks are probably the most accessible for a non-technical audience. If nothing else, check out Six Landscapes – fascinating stuff.