Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

HOPE X: Bless the Cops, and Keep Them Far Away From Us

Livebglogged at HOPE X.

Alex Muentz

Hackers are in the media, but not well understood. Why do hackers expose problems and break things? Hackers are consumer protectors, like Ralph Nader, or Upton Sinclair. Hackers are presented as folk heroes, folk devils, plain criminals, and/or national security threats. The State is using the moral panic over hacking to show force and require new powers.

Most criminals don't get caught. The hackers who are doing public-facing consumer protection are easy targets for prosecution, and receive more.

18 USC 1030/CFAA Bans unauthorized or 'excess of authorized' access to a 'protected computer.' Obtaining information, causing damage, furthering fraud, or procuring others to do so. Results in criminal and civil penalties. The law has no First Amendment or self defense exceptions.

HOPE X: Building an Open Source Cellular Network at Burning Man

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Johnny Diggz, Geeks Without Bounds
Willow Brugh, Geeks Without Bounds

VizThink by Johnny Diggz.

Geeks Without Bounds holds hackathons to match people with skills with humanitarian groups that need those skills. In times of crisis, communication is one of the top priorities. But those channels are usually for "first responders" rather than residents.

Johnny Diggz is a cofounder of Geeks Without Bounds and many tech companies. Most recently he is the Chief Evangelist at Tropo. Willow Brugh is one of our own at the Center for Civic Media, as well as a cofounder of Geeks Without Bounds and an affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center.

HTTP Must Die

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Yan Zhu, EFF
Parker Higgins, EFF

VizThink by Willow Brugh.

Why is HTTP bad? HTTP touches everything we do. Agencies such as the NSA can use this to see everything we do online.

Even if you support HTTPS, not using it all the time exposes you to vulnerabilities. The NSA's QUANTUM intercepts requests to services like Yahoo and redirects them to NSA-operated FOXACID servers to infect them with malware, before a secure connection is established. The NSA also uses unencrypted cookies to determine who to target.

HOPE X: Can You Patent Software?

Can You Patent Software?

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Ed Ryan, Patent Attorney

Will be talking about the Alice v. CLS Bank decision. So can you patent software? Short answer: yes.

In the US, the power to issue patents comes from the Constitution, and is meant to encourage innovation. Patents involve a trade: you get a monopoly on making something for a limited amount of time, but you have to tell us how you made it. It's common wisdom that patents are good, but Ed asks if that really holds up for software.

He argues that being secretive over ideas in tech is wasteful and that the main benefit of software patents is to allow people to talk about their ideas without the need for secrecy.

Software is usually patented as a "process" or a "machine." However, laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas can't be patented. When you patent the basic building blocks of an industry, you in effect own that industry. Software patents go against the long-held ideals of sharing in open source.

HOPE X: Barret Brown and Anonymous: Persecution of Information Activists

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Kevin Ghallagher
Ahmed Ghappour, Professor, UC Hastings
Gabriella Coleman, Professor, McGill

VizThink by Willow Brugh.


Anonymous has risen as the face of global dissent. Their roots were fully in the world of internet trolling. Fox News called Anonymous "The Internet's Hate Machine. Anonymous responded with a video.


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