29c3 Hamburg / DE
The last week of 2012 marked the 29th installment of the Chaos Communication Congress. Organized by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the congress is an annual conference on technology and its impact on society. Although the scope may look quite loose, both lectures and workshops typically revolve around privacy, freedom of information, data security and other hacking issues. Needless to say, it has always been a great success; huge, considering that black-hat sized events here in Europe are not that common. Take, for instance, the fact that this year the congress had to be held in Hamburg, as Berlin could not offer a congress center fit enough to host more than 6000 attendees. Trust me, this number was not an exaggeration at all!
I admit my expectations were quite high: after four long years of scientific symposia going back to more technical venues was indeed putting my brain in hunger-mode. However, having experienced what it means organizing events for medium sized scientific conferences, I was honestly puzzled about turning a huge building such as the Congress Center of Hamburg in a functional place ready to host lectures, workshops, and hack spaces. Boy I was wrong to be worried about it. The event lasted 4 whole days (from the 27th to the 30th) with an impeccable organization: not only were all lectures and workshops flawlessly organized, streamed, and chaired; but also all open spaces were collectivized and used for all kind of hacking purposes, from playing CTF to entry-level courses on the Arduino platform.
The speakers on the other hand could take advantage of extremely well-sized rooms, with the most important talks having available an auditorium able to host more than 2000 people. Nevertheless, I have to say I was forced to learn one thing pretty fast: if you are interested in a topic, and that topic happens to be quite a hot one, well, be ready to get to the room at least 15 minutes before show-time; seriously, being on time never worked; any room, regardless of the capacity, was liable to get full. Believe me, I was really thankful for the flawless streaming infrastructure (watching a talk on my laptop that was taking place just few meters away was indeed paradoxical 🙂 ).
The first day’s line up was respectable. The keynote was given by Jacob Appelbaum, known for his contributions to “The Tor Project”, and also former spokesperson for WikiLeaks. After the usual introductions, he explained the reasons of this year’s congress’ zeitgeist “Not My Department”. We all have heard this sentence at least once in our lives; usually uttered to belittle other people’s arguments, it has always been used as an example of a closed mindset at work. Jacob’s point was that this attitude is even more detrimental in an inter-connected world. What is the use of a privacy-preserving bill if our data flows through the routers of oppressive governments potentially assembling huge data sets about our lives? A new level of awareness is therefore suggested.