If you don’t like politics, at least work on the software!

Frank Rieger holding the keynote talk

Frank Rieger holding the keynote talk

Frank Rieger's keynote talk started off Europe’s biggest hacker conference today. Already before the first talk the conference is sold out and the big conference hall of Berlin’s

bcc – Berliner Congress Center was packed with people during the talk. Many watched online via stream (when it was available). For the time being both streaming and connectivity in general are suffering from too many users.

Frank Rieger gave a general overview of achievements by and future challenges for the hacker community: technology is perpetrating our lives more and more and it’s up to us to draw the lines between what is useful development and what needs to be restricted. He said “To rationalise dealing with human beings is evil”. Ending up with a phone bot when trying to get through to a Paypal hotline is degrading, to say the least. Dangers of ever increasing surveillance can’t be tolerated by pointing out a vague interpretation of “freedom”.

It’s time to roll back “all this shit”. We need to come up with radical demands: it’s not that citizens exist for the state, but instead the state exists for its citizens, or rather, the state is the citizens. Data collected by the state need to be publicly available with very few exceptions. One demand could be that both state authorities and companies need to be compelled to tell us about all existing data about us once a year. Including what happened to them.

“We want a foundation watching over issues of data protection just like the consumer protection agencies that already exist” (in Germany), he went on . This institution should e.g. compare and publish data protection measures by companies and suggest the best ones. At the same time we need an independent institution governing issues of security and information technology. The existing German BSI is more and more turning into a surveillance authority.

Another issue touched in the keynote were models for income generation for artists and authors in times of uncontrollable file sharing that will never be rolled back. “It has to be possible to make a living by working in arts and culture. On the other hand there is no fundamental right to being rich”, he addressed the music industry.

Legal battles make sense but don’t solve problems in themselves. It’s necessary to make sure after a pro-privacy decision e.g. by the constitutional court that police carrying out searches are aware of what’s legal.

Next was his urgent appeal to the hacker community: “Even if you are sick of politics: at least help to improve the software!” Anonymity is one of the most interesting issues of the time – politically just as technically. It’s up to us to be up to date and to not accept the flaws in the software we’re using. Also – and this is one of our biggest advantages – we getting better at creating publicity and using technological tools to do so. Hackerspaces are the best thing that happened to us in the past years: we can do this together, not everyone for him- or herself.

(At this time the stream broke off for me and I’m hoping for complementation via the comments)

By Anne Roth, guest-blogging for the CCC