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By 12 July 2013 | Categories: news

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It is quite telling, and sad, at how far the impact of the PRISM revelations have gone, that it has impacted relationships between the obvious (nations, governments and its people) while also extending its reach to the more subtle and long standing. One of the latter, at least in the technology world, comes from the Def Con hacking conference.

Apparently this has functioned as a friendly, if unexpected, common ground between those who like to tinker with computing systems, and federal agencies seeking fresh talent.

Indeed, the National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander was even the event’s keynote speaker last year; this year though the NSA, FBI and the like have been politely invited not to attend.

The event organiser, Jeff Moss, aka The Dark Tangent, posted a blog entry entitled ‘Feds, we need some time apart’. In it, he explained that for more than twenty years, the Def Con event had been an “open nexus of hacker culture, a place where seasoned pros, hackers, academics, and feds can meet, share ideas and party on neutral territory. Our community operates in the spirit of openness, verified trust, and mutual respect.”

This trust however, much like the privacy of the general public falling under the scrutiny of PRISM, seems to have been breached.  

Broken bridges

“When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about this relationship. Therefore, I think it would be best for everyone involved if the feds call a "time-out" and not attend Def Con this year,” continued Moss. This will be taking place from the 1st to the 4th of August in Las Vegas.

Interestingly enough, at last year’s event, Alexander’s talk was aimed at building a bridge between the government and the hacking community at large, according to Security Week. It seems though, as if that bridge has crumbled somewhat in the intervening year, particularly with Edward Snowden’s revelations.

That being said, the “please stay away” request does not extend to other similar events, such as the Black Hat convention.

Most important though, was Moss’ concluding statement: “This will give everybody time to think about how we got here, and what comes next.”

To the point  

Indeed, this is the heart of the matter, and not just for Def Con itself. What comes next seems to be the most important question right now that needs to be asked, and answered  – for Edward Snowden, for intelligence gathering programmes like PRISM, and for citizens' privacy as a whole.

We suspect though that if the issue is met with continued apathy, not only will it not bode well for the kind of informal cyber security forum that Def Con managed to attain, but privacy could also be relegated to becoming a ‘quaint’ concept, reserved for the naive or as yet still too innocent. Now that truly is a frightening thought.

In related news, another response to the PRISM fallout has been a crowdfunded campaign to  launch a new, encrypted messaging app, Heml.is, by the co-founder of The Private Bay.

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