Re:publica Special

15th May, 2015 — Laura Kalbag

re:publica Stage 1 signage

Last week we missed the roundup as the team was at re:publica in Berlin. Re:publica was a great event, full of interesting discussions around privacy, corporate surveillance, and much more. For our re:publica special, we’re going to share some of our favourite talks from the week.

Corporate surveillance

You are the product

Aral has extended his recent talk, The Camera Panopticon into his latest talk, You Are The Product. Watch it to find out more about corporate surveillance, how you are the product, and how we need to climb out of the bullshit tree. Aral’s video is available on our site, but unfortunately the rest of the video links in the roundup are currently only available on re:publica’s account on YouTube.

Corporate surveillance, tracking, big data, the Internet of Things and our digital profiles

Wolfie Christl gave a fascinating talk that backed up the arguments made by Aral, going into great depth on how corporations use your data, and the data brokers that extract the value from your profiles, statuses and other online information.

Katarzyna Szymielewicz expanded on Wolfie’s points, looking further into how our information can be used against us. Katarzyna makes it clear that we only have the illusion of choice in opting in to corporate surveillance, as without the so-called benefits, we are discriminated against by companies such as insurers and lenders.

Blurry line between private service and public infrastructure

Michał Woźniak put forward that private service is not the same as public infrastructure, providing evidence on how treating private services like public infrastructure has hindered privacy and security. For example, treating Google as a public infrastructure forgets that Google has corporate interests, and will happily take down apps that could benefit the privacy of a downloader at the request of a telco:

“As of May 2013, Google Play forbids AT&T users from downloading Open Garden, a wireless mesh network platform, which it lists as “incompatible” at the request of the carrier.”

The video for Michał’s talk isn’t online yet, but you can see his informative slides in PDF and ODP formats on his site.

Mass surveillance by governments and corporations in Europe

Finding a European way on Internet governance

This panel on Internet governance (governance of Internet security, data protection and privacy, net neutrality and more…) may start out a little dry, but it gets good really quickly. With Raegan MacDonald of Access, and Amelia Andersdotter of the Pirate Party, taking the European Commission to task on issues such as their approach to human rights in a digital age, and the nonsense that is multistakeholderism.

“The most constructive thing the European Commission can do is listen to the people who are trying to make themselves heard.” — Amelia Andersdotter, Pirate Party

The Five Eyes secret European allies

Did you sign up to be a part of Privacy International’s campaign against government surveillance? In this talk from Privacy International’s Deputy Director, Eric King, he explains why they’re investigating, and litigating against, government surveillance, and how European intelligence agencies share their data and co-operate with the infamous Five Eyes alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Reforming the system

Many of the talks concluded that the only way to change mass surveillance and corporate surveillance is to reform the systems they rely upon. Democracy must be more democratic, and, as Aral said in his talk, we can’t just fix the existing system, we need to build a new one.

The system is broken, and that’s the good news

Ethan Zuckerman opened re:publica talking about our political systems, how they’re broken, but how we can turn the resulting mistrust into an asset to force change.

“We need to find a path between the ballot box and the brick.”

Stasi: Godwin for mass surveillance

Cory Doctorow gave a very interesting talk pointing out how the NSA, and other countries’ government agencies are actually far more able and effective than the Stasi. Technology amplifies spying to such a degree, that corrupt elites can retain power and needn’t even promise to do good for their citizens and users. is moving

You might have heard from Aral’s blog post that, as a result of the Conservatives winning the election, are leaving the UK. We’re looking for places in the EU and EEA, where we can live and work on If you have any recommendations on countries with better stances on mass surveillance and data retention, better democracy, and safe locations to host data, please drop us an email. We’re also looking for academic institutions or incubators to help us with the transition.