Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn is a gor­geous sort of art, exhi­bi­tion, stu­dio space that has a lot of inter­est­ing stuff going on. You have fel­lows upstairs that are mak­ing and cre­at­ing art. You have a bunch of bands that play here. It’s kind of an open com­mu­ni­ty space. It’s real­ly cool. And they have been gen­er­ous enough to allow us to host this event and speak to a com­mu­ni­ty that does­n’t usu­al­ly get addressed on these top­ics but that all of us here feel are real­ly inte­gral to being able to build tech­nolo­gies that actu­al­ly respect pri­va­cy, being able to imag­ine what they look like, being able to actu­al­ly cri­tique what the stakes of those tech­nolo­gies are. 

You don’t need a CS degree to know how they impact your life, so how do we start exam­in­ing those impacts and then lead­ing with an under­stand­ing of what we actu­al­ly want to build, how we want to build it, and let­ting the imag­i­na­tive capa­bil­i­ties of all of these peo­ple dri­ve that. The way in which archi­tec­ture and net­work tech­nolo­gies and pri­va­cy inter­sect, there’s a lot of dis­cus­sion around the Internet of Things. We have an archi­tect here who’s able to cov­er like, I am a very well-respected archi­tect but no one tells me about secu­ri­ty or pri­va­cy. I’m sold devices, I build hous­es.” That’s a huge prob­lem area.

We have librar­i­ans talk­ing about…somebody who runs the New York Public Library’s prison library pro­gram talk­ing about the way in which the nar­ra­tive around pri­va­cy and con­sumer tech­nolo­gies does­n’t cov­er the kind of state sur­veil­lance and oth­er privacy-invasive tech­niques that are hap­pen­ing in insti­tu­tions like prisons. 

How would you build the capac­i­ty to say no to cer­tain tech­nolo­gies? Like, I don’t want track­ing in my com­mu­ni­ty. I don’t want pre­dic­tive polic­ing. What does agency look like in that con­text, and how often are the peo­ple who actu­al­ly have to deal with the effects of tech­nolo­gies consulted.

So we have a whole pan­el here about the prob­lem space of encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions. We can build things PGP. Other exam­ples that tech­ni­cal­ly work in a kind of vac­u­um, but don’t work the way that peo­ple expect com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies to work. So what do we need to do to get to a place where we’re actu­al­ly build­ing to the require­ments of humans, not to the require­ments of cryptographers?

One of the things we need right now, we have an area of prac­tice around this tech­nol­o­gy. There are peo­ple who real­ly know how to build it, how to make it, how to think about it in terms of imple­men­ta­tion. We don’t have a cul­ture around this. So what we need is a cul­ture of cri­tique, a cul­ture of design, a cul­ture of imag­i­na­tion. So we can actu­al­ly begin incor­po­rat­ing a much broad­er swatch of think­ing into our devel­op­ment prac­tices. Simply Secure is an orga­ni­za­tion I helped found that I care a lot about and I think is doing great work. I would check out Simply Secure. 

I would also start under­stand­ing that what you want, what you’re con­fused about, what you think is weird about a lot of the tech­nolo­gies that seem to just per­me­ate our lives with­out our per­mis­sion, with­out our understanding…your voice there is real­ly impor­tant in help­ing shape that. You should­n’t feel pre­clud­ed from hav­ing a crit­i­cal view, from hav­ing agency, just because you did­n’t study com­put­er sci­ence at college.

I would look at sim​pl​y​se​cure​.org. They’re an orga­ni­za­tion that’s real­ly try­ing to do this. I would look at a num­ber of the tools that they sup­port. I would look at the work of a num­ber of the indi­vid­ual artists and con­trib­u­tors here. I would look at Open Whisper Systems and their Signal and TextSecure apps. [since com­bined] I would look at Guardian Project. They also make encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion technologies.