Journal of Unlikely Cryptography
Issue 8, February 2014
Table of Contents
Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay by Barry King
Ink by Mari Ness
Chilaquiles Con Code by Mary Alexandra Agner
How My Best Friend Rania Crashed a Party and Saved the World by Ada Hoffmann
Two Things About Thrand Zandy’s TechnoThèque by Gregory Norman Bossert
It’s not a new thing. Long before Edward Snowden leaked information pointing to massive and widespread surveillance by the NSA, people in the telecommunications industries not-quite-knew what was going on: large amounts of fiber not belonging to any known company laid in and around major Internet hubs, a string of mysterious breaks in underwater fiber cables, fiber optic equipment deployed in unmarked buildings. The clues were all there. It took Snowden to make it news.
But really, paranoids in speculative fiction have been warning against the police state for a lot longer than that. Philip K. Dick in the 50s and 60s wrote obsessively on the theme. In his book Discipline & Punish, French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault discussed the control structure of the panopticon, which allows a small number of people to clearly see what everyone else is doing, while not being seen themselves. The act of observing changes behavior in the observed; when everything you do can be seen, your choices are reduced.
At Defcon last year, I had a conversation with a friend which pointed out that however chilling the activities of the NSA were, there were legal restrictions on what was collected and how the government could use the data — as long as the government remains a constitutional democracy, and as long as there are whistle-blowers, there will be limits and corrections on government abuse. But the same is not true when it comes to private corporations. There is very little preventing any corporation that obtains data on you from using it any way they want, or to sell it to those who will.
Don’t be fooled by our title; there’s nothing unlikely here. In this issue, you will find stories of hacking and defending, sacrifice and triumph. You’ll find hard coding and social hacking, surveillance and evasion, and visions of both the freedoms and benefits that data technologies afford us, and the dangers that lurk within.