Freedom Not Fear 2008/Guatemala

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Freedom not Fear action within the framework of III Social Forum Americas - Guatemala 2008 "New technologies are not isolated from historical background and politics"

Attendees: around 50

Countries: Canada, US, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Spain.

Activity: Informative Talk

"New technologies are not isolated from historical background and politics" said one activist attending the III Social Forum of The Americas [1], where many people from different countries attended during a week many activities, among them, an informal talk of Freedom not Fear and why open tools are important to preserve privacy.

Renata Avila [2] (GV Author, Guatemala) and Federico Heinz (Via Libre, Argentina) started the conversation on privacy, surveillance and around the "state of the art" on open technologies in Latin America to arrive to the main topic, why "open practices" preserve our privacy and security, after that people from OLPC, from community radios from México and Northern Guatemala, international ress members, developers and activists joined to the conversation.

Among the attendees were people from community radio Radio Jen Poj in Oaxaca, Mexico, community radio activists based in Peten, one of the most isolated areas in Guatemala, people working for the disabled creating software and tools for them, from Venezuela, a member of Codigo Sur, a platform that is creating safe software for NGOs in Spanish and visitors from New York (May First), a member from OLPC and several students from Québec.

In a digital environment is extremely easy to analyze network traffick and irrespecting privacy, social networks like facebook, google groups and other social networks might enable governments to surveille on people. He recommended Bruce Schneier blog for those that can speak English, and encouraged techy guys to learn cryptography.

Federico Heinz discussed with NGOs the importance to be extremely careful as social activists with email, social networks and mobile phones. Organizations like Edulibre, May First People Link and other grassroots movements engaged in the conversation. Tools like Tor and Psiphon were largely ignored and not yet implemented by activist.

Federico explained the dangers of bitfrosts and control ordered by governments even in friendly devices as computer for children including DMRs, the distributors can even control many configurations of the machines, and it happens with commercial devices as well. In projects to the future. Even mobiles can become a tool of surveillance. He used as example the XO from OLPC when explained the dangers of Bitfrost, the OLPC project's DRM mechanism, which makes it easier for governments to spy on users of the "friendly" children's computer, and of other DRM mechanisms included in many everyday devices, such as media players, cell phones, and even printers and digital cameras. The OLPC project is a particularly worrying case, because it showcases how even community-driven projects can be co-opted for surveillance if we are not extremely carefult about it. National Security concerns might enable governments to circumvent or irrespect the laws easily.

Not isolated from the past

"We discussed why we must learn from the past, stand for our rights and keep our privacy safe" said a 20 year old Systems student from Guatemalan Highlands. And in fact many college students and dissidents were dissappeared or murdered in the past. Guatemalan intelligence agency (known as D-2 or G-2 and the Presidential General Staff known as the EMP were implicated in some of the worst human rights abuses perpetrated during the war. The truth commission released its final report in 1999 and according to the report, some 200,000 Guatemalan citizens died in the war, and another 40,000 were abducted and disappeared. Recently it was discovered the evidence of the heavy surveillance suffered during years and years by Guatemalans, when the National Police Secret Archive was found, there were hundreds of rolls of still photography, pictures of bodies and of detainees, there were lists of police informants with names and photos, there were vehicle license plates, video tapes and computer disks.

[3] [4]


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