Transcript: Hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

Back in February I spoke at the “Freedom of Information? panel held in Redfern by Recordkeeping Roundtable. I’ve previously posted the audio of my contribution. Here’s a transcript.

Recordkeeping Roundtable’s website has the raw transcript as supplied, but I’ve decided to edit it up a little to make it more readable. Enjoy.

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Talking hacking and irrational actors in Redfern

The Recordkeeping Roundtable panel “Freedom of Information?” held on 29 February was recorded, and here’s the audio.

The promo, as I told you earlier said:

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely and appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods — are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

I was the first speaker, talking about the new, disorderly ways of liberating information, using the Anonymous crack of Stratfor as an example. Since then, though, we’ve discovered that the whole thing might have been an FBI sting operation against WikiLeaks!

Recordkeeping Roundtable has posted the audio of the entire event: opening remarks by moderator Cassie Findlay; me; the speech by former diplomat Dr Philip Dorling, who now leads the journalistic pack in FOI stuff; the speech by Tim Robinson, Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney; and the question and answer session.

Here, though, is a tweaked and slightly less bandwidth-hungry version of my speech.

Play

[The original audio recording by Cassie Findlay was sampled at 44.1kHz. This version has the audio levels compressed and normalised, and re-sampled to 22.050kHz. It’s posted here under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.]

[Update 26 May 2012: A transcript of what I said is now available.]

Freedom of Information panel, orderly and disorderly

On Tuesday 21 Wednesday 29 February 2012 I’m on the panel for “Freedom of information?”, presented by the Recordkeeping Roundtable.

The promo sayeth:

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely and appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods — are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

I think I’ll be rabbiting on about the internet and stuff. Information security, digital distribution, authentication of records, WikiLeaks, Anonymous. That sort of thing.

My fellow panelists are former diplomat Dr Philip Dorling, who now leads the journalistic pack in FOI stuff; and Tim Robinson, Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney. The moderator is Cassie Findlay, Recordkeeping Roundtable co-founder and digital archivist.

It’s at the Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney, and doors open at 5.30pm for a 6.00pm start. It wraps at 7.30pm for dinner. Admission is $5 and you should probably register.

[Update 16 February: Date changed to 29 February, as Dr Dorling must alas attend a funeral on the original date.]

Talking LulzSec/Anonymous vs PayPal on TripleJ’s Hack

On Wednesday afternoon, LulzSec and Anonymous joined forces to encourage people to boycott PayPal by withdrawing their money and closing their accounts.

The back story is that PayPal has cut off WikiLeaks’ account, meaning that people could no longer donate money to WikiLeaks via PayPal. Anonymous launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal. Last week the FBI and others arrested people alleged to have been responsible for those attacks. So this week, the boycott of PayPal.

The joint statement by LulzSec and Anonymous makes for interesting reading. It describes DDoS attacks as “ethical, modern cyber operations”. Such things are actually a criminal act, despite what Anonymous may imagine the law to be. “Law enforcement continues to push its ridiculous rules upon us,” they write, when it’s not law enforcement who makes the laws, but governments.

The call for the boycott was unfolding as Triple J’s current affairs program Hack was going to air, and I phoned in a report. Here’s the audio.

Play

I found it interesting that presenter Tom Tilley responded to my comment that DDoS is a crime by saying “Yeah I imagine there’d be people with lots of different points of view about what they’re doing and whether it’s indeed lawful.”. Personally I reckon the law in this is pretty clear. Pandering to their audience?

The audio is ©2011 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It has been extracted from the full program audio [MP3].

Fowler’s Assange biography not really so bad

A couple weeks ago I wrote that Andrew Fowler’s biography of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, The Most Dangerous Man in the World, was failing to impress. I persisted reading, however, and things got better.

My main gripe then was that just 41 pages into the narrative I was getting the distinct impression that Melbourne University Press hadn’t assigned an editor who had the faintest grasp of internet technology, history and culture. I listed a bunch of what, to me, were glaring errors.

However once we get past Assange’s earlier hacker life and into more recent material, which is more about interpersonal relationships and international politics, the book is significantly stronger. Indeed, The Most Dangerous Man in the World does a good job of tying together the various threads of the Assange and WikiLeaks stories, and even buries on page 217 an important revelation — if it is a revelation.

I have been reliably told that ASIO played an active part in the investigation into Assange, trawling through his life and activities in Australia. But what must be just as worrying for him, and has also never been revealed before, is the fact that the inquiry also included officers from ASIS, Australia’s overseas intelligence agency, which has strong links with the US.

Personally I’m not surprised by that news one bit. That’s just the intelligence organisations doing their jobs of investigating perceived threats to national security, as should be expected. But given how some folks get all frothed up whenever they discover that spooks are involved, I’m wondering why this wasn’t given more prominence.

The book still has some curious wording, such as on page 147 where WikiLeaks is described as “a child of the anarchic blogosphere”. I’m not sure that’s the right heritage to stress and, as I wrote before, Robert Manne’s free-to-read essay in The Monthly does a much better job of capturing Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ cypherpunk roots. On page 165 there’s a reference to “what’s known as the DefCon conference”, as if there’s some doubt as to the name of one of the longest-running and most-respected hacker events on the planet. And there’s still plenty of that sloppy editing I referred to, such as the Chaos Computer Club being explained twice.

Nevertheless, reading The Most Dangerous Man in the World will give you the core narratives. Just be aware that the technical and cultural descriptions are wobbly, and use it to get the timelines straight in your head.