Your input needed: Questions for panel w/ Eben Moglen, RMS, 4 MEPs

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Sun Jun 30 20:19:08 UTC 2013

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Today's news probably adds weight to point (b) in my email from yesterday

On 29/06/13 19:08, Daniel Pocock wrote:
> On 28/06/13 22:39, Karsten Gerloff wrote:
>> Hi everyone,
>> on July 9 at the Libre Software Meeting / RMLL in Brussels, we're
>>  organising a big panel discussion on "Technology, Power and 
>> Freedom":
>> After the news about wide-ranging communications surveillance
>> we've heard in recent weeks, this topic is arguably even more
>> pressing than it was before. But we want to look at the long
>> term:
>> What do we need to change in politics and technology today to
>> build a better world tomorrow?
>> For this discussion we're bringing some of the Free Software 
>> movement's leading minds together with the people who represent
>> us in the European Parliament. We're extremely happy to have a
>> list of first-rate participants:
>> Eben Moglen (Columbia University / Software Freedom Law Center) 
>> Richard M Stallman (FSF) Judith Sargentini (MEP Greens/EFA) Marc 
>> Tarabella (MEP S&D - tbc) Nils Torvalds (MEP ALDE) Ioannis A. 
>> Tsoukalas (MEP EPP)
>> I'd like your input: What should we ask these people? What are
>> your most urgent questions on technology and politics?
> I can think of various themes, maybe people can work some
> questions around these, some of them would even be enough to
> justify a panel of their own:
> a) crypto-currencies (of which Bitcoin is only one example)
> At first glance, it appears like a simple topic, but it is not. 
> Currency is fundamentally intertwined with concepts of power.  It
> is widely speculated that Saddam's decision to price Iraqi oil in
> EUR rather than USD (and a similar attitude from Venezuela)
> prompted the invasion to hunt for those WMDs that everybody now
> agrees he never had.
> The power of the USD is having far-reaching effects: look at
> things like the SWIFT payment system snooping scandal a few years
> ago, or more recently the US has been pushing Swiss banks to
> disclose full lists of their employees to US regulators.  Many
> Swiss banks (previously known for a commitment to privacy) have to
> operate some kind of US branch or payment facility for handling US
> dollars and they are now finding those arrangements have become
> indispensable, putting them under immense pressure to comply with
> more and more US regulations.
> However, the US powers haven't worked that way forever: early 
> Americans were vigorously opposed to the idea of a central bank.
> The Federal Reserve, as it works today, only came into existence in
> 1913 after many previous attempts were tried and then discarded: 
>  Should the EUR just copy USD associated behavior, power plays, etc
> or is there an opportunity to be more innovative, introducing 
> crypto-currency concepts in a legal manner without the problems of 
> central banking?
> b) Government communication technology
> Why does the European parliament not switch to a secure email
> scheme, e.g. PGP?  Rather than using laws to change things, they
> should seek to change the way people interact with Government and
> use that to set an example.
> How can independent Governments extend the same concept to social 
> media, e.g. dumping Facebook and using a federated platform?
> c) the funding gap
> Some of Eben's talks have been very accurate and also very
> motivating, but the reality is developers need to eat.  As we've
> heard from Mr Snowden, the NSA pays quite well whereas many free
> software developers feel undervalued or only do experiments in
> their spare time for reasons of personal curiosity rather than to
> make a lasting solution. Consequently many open source solutions
> are not "polished" in such a way that the general public can or
> will use them.
> The rates I see for open source development often fall far short
> of the rates I see doing proprietary work in banks or defense
> projects. Amongst those people who have political will or funding
> capacity, I've often observed a failure to appreciate the benefit
> of paying the rates of premium developers (those who make the most
> secure and reliable code) - in some cases there seems to be an
> attitude that developers are all the same and should be paid the
> same.
> Things like crowdfunding get a lot of headlines but the reality is
> that (a) lots of work is involved in the fundraising/publicity
> phase and (b) crowd funding is more like a lottery, projects only
> succeed there if they are lucky enough to get promoted in slashdot
> or mainstream media.
> What is the solution?  Can organisations (either government or
> private sector) either provide direct funding or facilitate a more
> effective crowdfunding effort?  Can this be done without devaluing
> developers, e.g. paying market rates rather than asking them to
> work for charity?
> d) public perception
> Before the Snowden scandal, a number of people asked me if I was 
> paranoid (e.g. for promoting ZRTP in Lumicall).  Privacy scandals 
> happen all the time: just look at the phone hacking in the UK. 
> Despite all this clear evidence in broad daylight, people are just
> not getting the message.
> Is it a lost cause?
> Or does money need to be invested to educate people?
> Or is it better to focus on areas like small business where the
> owners can be educated about the value of their data because they
> have a lot more to lose?
> Why is privacy more of a concern in places like Germany and
> largely ignored in places like Australia?
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