Anna on Wed, 2 Jan 2008 00:16:34 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Happy new 1984

... is a slogan I heard a lot during the last days at Chaos
Communication Congress (24c3). In fact there was a strong
demonstration as a part of the congress with 500-1000 people
(depending on the sources) against data retention and surveillance:
the German data retention law was introduced last year and came
into effect today. Very nice action in the middle of after-x-mas
shopping at Berlin Alexanderplatz. There's some videos and pictures.
(Conference recordings and more links below)

During the demonstration as well as during the conference itself I
was surprised, and glad, to find that the links between hacking,
surveillance, technology and the war on terror seemed almost
self-evident. Article 129a, the German law to prosecute terrorism,
was mentioned in the demonstration when everybody chanted "We are
all 129a" (it rhymes better German) as well as several talks and
e.g. during the famous 'Hacker Jeopardy' game show. This year a new
category was introduced: 'Brave new world'; and at least one question
referred directly to terrorism.

My lecture on living with surveillance and blogging about it was
starting point for a number of discussions. Isn't it a contradiction
to suffer from police surveillance, to not want to have your privacy
violated on the one hand and then to go out and seek the most of
publicity through blogging and talking at an event like the 24c3?

Interesting point and in fact this did made me think about whether
I actually wanted to blog for at least a month before I started. I
am very fond of my privacy. I still advise people to encrypt and
to anonymise as much as possible, and luckily the Federal Court of
Justice was kind enough to argue in its decision in October that it is
*not* criminal to encrypt emails and that in fact you are perfectly
entitled to *not* take your mobile whereever you go and still that's
not terrorist in itself.

My point is that I (mostly) don't blog about personal things other
than surveillance and how that interferes with our lives (of my
family, that is). One goal of surveillance is to intimidate and shut
you up, at least when it is done in such an obvious way. The threat of
locking someone up for years is quite effective.

Talking and writing about it is a way of not accepting to be shut up.
Also I learned that a wide majority of my readers and listeners are
extremely shocked about the extent and methods of surveillance 'in
a democratic country like ours'. There are a lot of comments saying
they'd imagined something like that in China, Russia, Eastern bloc,
but not here. This is not so much about my, or our, privacy any more
because that was fundamentally destroyed by police and agencies as it
is. It's about attacking a privacy, or better secrecy (of intruding
into people's lives) the authorities seem to assume and in fact have
when they target someone.

At least in Germany it seems that nobody has blogged about what it
is like when all available means of surveillance are used against
you and what that is like in everyday life. And so while many people
are generally aware that this exists and many approve of using these
measures against 'real terrorists' a typical reaction was: "But I
didn't think they'd use this with ordinary people" (meaning: 'like
me'). Of course, just some years ago there was no web 2.0, and getting
through to mainstream media with something like this is a whole
different ballgame. As was told very impressingly by Annie Machon,
former MI5 agent who became a whistleblower.

The number of German phones that are tapped are published every year -
close to 40.000 last year. Data retention is in place now, UK has it,
Italy has it, Denmark has it, other countries are going to follow and
we're far from public outcries about it.

I was stunned to see so many people apparently be genuinely shocked
about our experiences. Through comments to my blog and elsewhere, but
also during the CCC Congress - there were hundreds of people in the
audience and many expressed the same things after my talk. And these
are the very people who deal with surveillance and how to prevent it
all the time. In this case blogging seemed to make the difference.

Obviuosly my ultimate aim is not to shock people. It's a very thin
line between giving information about this and scaring people with
the result that then they dare to do/say even less. We've seen it
- there are students now who wonder whether it's wise to research

When I started blogging my main motive was to not have all these crazy
little stories stuck in my brain and body. Writing helps. I had hoped
to stir debate as a side effect maybe and I am not flattering myself
with the idea that my blog will make a big difference. But I do hope
now that it'll contribute also to people not wanting to accept this
general direction of more control, more 'security', less freedom.

I'd be interested in ideas and comments. Preferably on a only
semi-abstract level - e.g. with examples from real life: what worked,
what didn't? I am after all more activist than academic ;).

Living my life, living with the terrorism proceedings against my
partner and blogging about it didn't leave the time to do this in two
languages and so most of my blog posts were (are) in German since my
main audience is the German public. At the same time it's not singular
and I'm sure very similar things are happening in other parts of the
'civilised world'.

After my (English) talk at the 24c3 someone stood up and offered to
translate the blog into English. A wiki site was set up and people are
working on this. I have started copying these texts into my blog. You
can find these translations plus the few things I wrote in English
myself here:

Anna, aka Anne Roth


24c3 conference recordings

mp4's e.g. at*mp4

24c3 program

My talk
on sevenload:
ipod cpmpatible

Demonstration against data retention

24C3: From the diary of a spy

D8CA 5A27 CF02 D93E 8713 BB16 DF54 007A 8BD0 27FC

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