30C3: Glenn Greenwald’s keynote speech

Glenn Greenwald’s keynote at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg was quite impressive. I found listening to it quite worthwhile, and highly reccomend it.

Some of Greenwald’s points I found particularly interesting:

How can we fight back against surveillance?

Greenwald discusses four main avenues how the surveillance state can be pushed back (my comments in italics).

  1. Public debate leading to legislative changes through the US Congress.
    Although, this is probably the option most mentioned, Greenwald doesn’t see a lot of chances that this will really change something. He mentions several examples where Congress’s and the administration’s reaction to public outrage was completely symbolic.
  2. A group of like-minded countries comes together and fights effectively back against US surveillance. Legally and/or technologically.
    He finds this much more likely. I’d say that mostly depends on the amount of pressure we can excert on our governments.
  3. US internet corporations might feel economic costs of their collaboration with the US government, and fight back.
    This is a very interesting thought. It’ll only work if consumers start to look more closely into their internet-related companies and boycott those, that, e.g., freely share their customer’s data with the US & UK gov. However, my experience with friends and colleagues has been that the understanding for the importance of this act is still very limited.
  4. In the end, Greenwald says, the most important battle is the technological one.
    It’ll depend on the quality and integrity of software like TOR, OTR, PGP to determine how much freedom & privacy will still be possible on the internet. Greenwald of course strongly appeals to the Hacker’s conference’s audience. However, he does have a very important point.

One other very notable element of his talk is the surprising reluctance of media to believe that intelligence and law enforcement agencies will lie about their methods – although they have been proven to do it again and again.

Glenn spoke via video conference. Unfortunately, here is only the audio, and for the Q&A part there are only his answers, not the questions from the audience.

You can download the audio here (54min).