Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Six years after Snowden: A summary of lessons learnt and lessons lost for the networked society

Talk by Rainer Rehak

On June 5, 2013, the publishing of thousands of secret documents began. These later became known as the “Snowden Revelations,” as the documents had been handed over to journalists by former NSA employee and whistleblower, Edward J. Snowden. They offered proof of the comprehensive global hacking and surveillance practices of the “Five Eyes” intelligence cooperation, mainly by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). According to the documents, many technology, telecommunications, and service companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, or Apple also directly cooperated with the NSA, and even standardization bodies like the NIST where heavily involved. Explicitly mentioned targets of those activities included the EU, SWIFT, the UN, the IAEA, the WTO, the G20, and the COP15. The documents revealed that the aim of achieving digital dominance by using mass surveillance of all internet traffic as well as targeted industrial espionage to exercise political influence.

In his talk, Rainer Rehak will summarize the most important revelations, put technical details into context, and outline pertinent technical and political advances since 2013 in the fields of IT security, privacy, and data protection. Generally, the revelations still hold much value for analyzing and assessing the current state of digitalization in Germany and across the globe. Rainer Rehak will touch upon the question of what technical and political efforts are needed to counteract further negative developments and vulnerabilities of the networked society, but also on the trade-offs that might have to be made.

Rainer Rehak is a computer scientist and doctoral candidate in the research group “Quantification and Social Regulation” at the Weizenbaum Institute. His dissertation project deals with the societal implications of IT security. He studied Computer Science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin.