Hack for Privacy is a network of technologists (designers, testers, analysts, developers, sysadmins, security specialists and writers) who care deeply enough about digital privacy to stand up and do something.
Meet our organisers:
Andrew is a co-founder of Hack for Privacy, activist and self-taught software developer. By day, Andrew works as a software consultant with everyone from startups to big enterprises to help them deliver software better. By night, Andrew helps other activists leverage technology to amplify their voices in their fights for social change. Since the Snowden revelations, Andrew has been focussed on helping activists maintain their privacy, since it is very hard to create social change without privacy.
Why am I here? It was the Australian metadata retention law that did it for me. Having ISPs storing data from our communications to then give free access to it to a large amount of people is outrageous. Privacy has many angles though: I, for example, struggle a lot balancing how much privacy I am willing to give up in order to use Google’s tools. An, as techies, that’s our biggest challenge. We need to create incredible tools that also protect people’s privacy, build software in an ethical way, thinking of the implications when we decide what personal data we capture, how we use it, who we give access to it and how we protect it. We haven’t been doing that and that needs to change.
Robin is a software developer and co-founder of Hack for Privacy. After observing the disregard for users’ security prevalent throughout the software industry, and the lack of respect for privacy across society as a whole, his despair was turned to action by Snowden’s revelations of 2013. He believes that the software industry is culpable in the demise of privacy, most people are in denial about their own role in mass surveillance, and now is the time to fix our attitudes. He attempts to demystify and promote privacy by facilitating cryptoparties, making noise on the internet, and organising Hack for Privacy.
Effy Elden is a 24-year-old non-binary software developer. As an avid technologist and queer troublemaker, they passionately pursue endeavours related to digital privacy and queer activism. Effy spends their spare time working to create safe & cohesive globally-connected online communities through projects such as Mastodon, advocating for digital privacy, and furthering progressive politics through their involvement with The Greens.
Where did Hack for Privacy start?
Hack for Privacy (previously Cryptohack) started in Melbourne in 2015 after Robin and Andrew had been delivering privacy workshops to community organisations and the general public as part of the worldwide privacy movement. Though our work, we realised there were a big gaps in the usability of privacy tools.
There are some great tools out there, but they can be very hard to use if you’re not a technical expert (e.g. PGP). Plenty of folks have spent a lot of time running workshops and tutorials to convince people that their privacy is under threat and there are tools they can use to help protect their privacy. If the tools were easy to use, we wouldn’t have to teach people how to use them!
In our day jobs we make software easier to use all the time. What was missing was an obvious way for us to harness our technical skills, and the skills of our friends and colleagues to help make privacy tools easier to use.
We also realised that there was a key voice missing in the privacy debate. The voice of technologists.
Technologists have the knowledge and skills to understand the tech and the risks that mass surveillance and corporate control of the internet pose to society. We also have the skills to create a digital world where everyone can choose what to share and what to keep private from government and corporate surveillance.
Hack for Privacy has become a place for technologists who care about privacy to come together, talk about the issues and potential solutions, and to use our technical superpowers to implement those solutions.
Why is privacy important?
We use the internet because it does all sorts of great things for us. Apps can keep us connected with friends, help us manage lists, watch cat videos and tons more. But corporate interests are mining the internet for all sorts of data so they can sell us more stuff. Governments are ramping up surveillance on their own citizens under the guise of defending society against terrorism.
We’re unconsciously trading our privacy for convenience. It is time to tip the scales in the other direction and take control. It is important that we can choose what information we share, and what we keep private.
When you lose your privacy, you lose your freedom. Data about you from all corners of the internet can be assembled into a very detailed profile about your likes, habits, movements, and who you contact.
Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
Read more: why privacy is necessary for society.