25c3 Nothing To Hide: Chaos Communication Congress in Germany

Dec 29, 2008

The Germany based Chaos Computer Club (CCC) has opened its traditional annual conference in Berlin, Germany, again this year. After a year of breakdowns in data security, the hacker organization is calling for a number of new protective measures.

Following the public (and final) resignation of former organizer and moderator, Tim Pritlove, on his blog on Christmas Eve, the conference was opened by CCC's technical-philosopher Sandro Gaycken. Keynote speaker was John Gilmore, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Gilmore provided his audience with much food for thought. "Nothing to hide," he proclaimed, and then paused for many seconds. The argument, nothing to hide, the unselfconscious laying open to observation and study, diagnosed Gilmore as a dangerous attitude. Both Gayken and Gilmore emphasized that "nothing to hide" may be relevant today, but will not be automatically relevant tomorrow.

The congress opening was followed by lectures chaired by CCC activist Constanze Kurz and lawyer Patrick Breyer from the study group Reserve Data Storage, on some highly publicized data security breakdowns in Germany in 2008. These included a large supermarket chain secretly filming staff and the dubious tracking of cellphone numbers by the state's police and recent data leakage at the German carrier Telekom.

The data protection measures called for by the CCC include the formation of an independent body, taking care exclusively of data protection. Further, the influential hacker organization would like to see the introduction of a Data Protection Document, which companies would use to inform their customers of the personal data saved and used over the past year. A fixed rate of compensation for misuses and an explicit "opt-in" process, differentiating between national and international use of personal data are also among CCC goals.

On a positive note, the conference reported an incident in which a truck carrying thousands of receipts containing sensitive customer information was involved in an accident, causing the receipts to be scattered over the freeway. The local police reacted by closing the freeway and painstakingly collecting the data, by flashlight. When asked why, an officer replied, "Data protection."
The 25. Chaos Communication Congress runs until Dec. 30.

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