My EU policy recommendation published: “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy Reform”

Under the title “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy ReformStartupEurope has published a report listing the Policy Recommendations that came out of the Policy Hackathon in San Francisco, where my team won the competition.

Download it here.

Interview for the art exhibition that I have curated and is currently being shown in Kaunas, Lithuania

INTERVIEW with JORGE CORTELL, curator
By Airida Rekštytė – November 4, 2016

According to your profound theoretical education (sic) it will not be difficult to present us in short your intentions for organizing this event.

When did the idea of making this exhibition occur and what inspired it?

I have spent years as activist defending free software and online privacy, and opposing censorship.
During a dinner with the director of an event that focuses on those themes (the Internet Freedom Festival, also known as Circumvention Festival), I told him how it would be a nice challenge to try to convey the main messages of the Festival’s themes into an art exhibition. And he said, let’s do it!

What is your personal relationship with the internet and its possibilities? Have you encountered limitations for your freedom? Do you think this is an issue in democratic countries?

I have been an early adopter of technologies since I can remember, and most of my companies are or have been technology-based.
Internet freedom is under constant threat, not only in undemocratic societies, but also by democratic governments and their “intelligence” organizations worldwide. The main example is all we have learned about the US government and the NSA spying on not only their citizens but also other countries (their allies), thanks to Edward Snowden.

In internet space you declare that you are in opposition to the concept of Intellectual Property. How would you describe your attitude? In what sense your views affect this exhibition?

I used to lecture on “Intellectual Property” (as an Assistant Professor in Spain, and as a Visiting Professor in 60 universities worldwide), and my lectures lasted hours, so I will try to condense all that in a few paragraphs 😉
Intellectual “Property” is wrong both from a conceptual level and a practical level.
From a conceptual level, it is an oxymoron, as “intellectual” can not be “property”, since all intellectual activity emanates and feeds from previous intellectual activities. It is culture and communication. It can not be “fenced”, and “packaged”. It is as absurd as saying “my son” or “my neighbor” is “mine” (as a possession). Just like contemporary societies reject the notion of slavery, we should reject the notion of “intellectual property”.
In the same way, from a practical level we can not and should not rely on a “temporary monopoly” as a way to incentivize the creation of artistic and/or intellectual works. Both the “temporary” (term which is being constantly increased and is now way above anything remotely reasonable) and the “monopoly” (which has been proven to be counterbenefitial to society and the economy) are deeply wrong and flawed.
Does that mean that “content creators” and “artists” and “authors” should not receive monetary compensation for their efforts? Not necessarily. What it means is that the current methods to try to achieve that only create artificial scarcity and the restriction of freedom and culture.

Behind each artwork there is a story and a reason why it is in this collection. It would be interesting to know your motivations, but perhaps it would take too long for you to answer. I would like to ask you about Patricija Gilyte since she has many fans in Lithuania. What was your motivation for picking her? How would you relate her to your topics?

I first saw her work in an Art Show in London, and I automatically knew she had to be part of this exhibition. I know an artist and her work is really especial when I want to write a book about it.
“TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” in particular is uniquely exquisite. It has a balance, a rhythm, and a whole flow that asks to be translated to narrative, to dance, to any other form, so it can take a life of its own.
At a surface level it makes you wonder, it intrigues the viewer, and opens up possibilities as to what is it that you are witnessing, while enjoying it all along. And I think it is that mix of wonder and pleasure that really attracted me to her piece.
I see “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” as the embodiment of intangible and ethereal Diversity.
Diversity is a hotly debated cultural issue. Whether we are talking workplace or demographically. But it relates to much more than that. And I wanted an artwork that took the conversation beyond the current limitations of the “Diversity” discourse.

Finally, which artwork is your favorite and better represents the idea of exhibition?

I have a very rational approach to encompass systemically both ethics and aesthetics. For that reason, I refuse to restrict myself unless absolutely necessary. So I have not thought about “a favorite”. But if I was absolutely forced to select one, I would have to consider it from different points of view:

– Concept: “Juego” by Mery. It has the subversive power of technology hidden under an apparently traditional painting.
– Artist: Claudio Zirotti. I really like how he has, for decades, continuously explored new artistic venues, refusing to limit himself to a single medium, style or message.
– Aesthetics: “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116″ by Patricija Gilyte. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and gracious. It’s the kind of work you fall in love with.
– History:”Jungle Emperor” by Osamu Tezuka. The story behind the controversy (plagiarism by Disney in “The Lion King”) is a fascinating story of inspiration, betrayal, aggression, and eventually history putting everyone in their right place.
– Playfulness: “[Fake] Banksy” by Dave Cicirelly. It’s a recursive play on Banksy’s playfulness.

The White House Chief Data Scientist assures me the White House strongly supports encryption and opposes back doors

Tuesday March 1 I had a conversation with Dr. DJ Patil, the First White House Chief Data Scientist, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

He was interested in discussing ways in which the White House can help healthcare technology companies like mine. The first issue I raised was my concern over the FBI’s request for Apple to decrypt a suspected criminal’s iPhone.

My position in this issue is well known: weak encryption means weak security for ALL of us, so nobody can request weak security for security’s sake.

As I told Dr. Patil that built in encryption is not something that can be made weaker or stronger on a per-case basis. We either all get strong encryption or we do not. If back doors are forced onto technology products, and strong encryption is restricted, we will all suffer from it, not just the healthcare industry. Besides, expecting the user to trust a central authority is not a good idea either, as we found out from the US Government’s recent failures preventing cyber criminals from accessing confidential and private data.

To my delighted surprise, Dr. Patil completely agreed with me and assured me that the White House strongly supports encryption and opposes back doors.

He apologized for not being able to elaborate much more, since this was an ongoing court process, but I did not need any more elaboration. His words were crystal clear. Let’s hope the Obama administration remains so and actively helps us lobby against diminished security and rights.

Playing in London… even with Microsoft!

These past few days have been quite “playful”.
On the one hand, I have just discovered, right around the corner from our apartment by London Bridge, a free and public playground that has an artificial grass hockey field, half a basketball court, 3 pingpong tables and even a beach volleyball court with sand and all! So obviously, the next day I went with my son to a sports equipment store and bought a soccer ball, a pingpong set, a basketball, a volleyball and a badminton set. Time to hit the court!

Talking about pingpong, this past week I have had several meetings and events in interesting places, like the Francis Crick Institute reception at the May Fair Hotel, but the most playful one was the Innovation Club meet up organized by Microsoft at Bounce, a private pingpong club with a waiting list of 3 months! Who would have thought I would be playing pingpong with Microsoft executives and discussing open standards and free software a few years after having had to lobby against them and their defense of software patents at the European Parliament?. The tech world surely is a rapidly evolving one.

My talk at the Circumvention Tech Festival, March 4th

This past winter I met Sandy and James from Open ITP in New York, and Pepe from Valencia. They were organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival to be held in Las Naves, Valencia (Spain) March 1-6.

They invited me to give a talk, which was eventually scheduled for March 4th at 3pm. I titled the talk “When privacy does not mean the same to you and me”. It was meant to generate debate, to expose other people’s points of view, rather than to be a unidirectional speech.

Nonetheless, my talk was but one of many meetings, talks, workshops, and debates that James, Sandy and the whole team put together. iRex, Tor, Pirate Party, Censorship.no, Ooni, Xnet, Alkasir, ASL19… It ended up being one of the most awesome events of this kind I have ever attended, with circumvention activist and journalists from all over the world sharing their experiences and projects with the community.

The last night I threw a party for all those who wanted to attend at Kanteron’s offices in Valencia. We had fun 🙂

I can’t wait for next year’s edition!

HTO: a hyper-reading project

Iban M. G. and Ben Martin have launched a writing project that breaks the boundaries of typical book in paper/digital format. Over the years I have seen many attempts to push the publishing world further. All commendable and appreciated. But so far I have not seen any project as ambitious as HTO.

Note: Literary review aside. I have not read the novel yet and, as a matter of fact, that’s irrelevant for the purposes of this post.

HTO. Hostile Takeover is a literary saga action and science fiction in Spanish. The first novel in the series,“El legado de Henry Bobson” is already available for about $4.85 (€ 3.95) in eBook format licensed under Creative Commons with a reading mode they call hyper-reading. You can also read for free the first seven chapters of the novel from a new online reader they have developed. They have also created an online enciclopedia to clarify concepts, characters, plots and the future of the project.

As if this were not enough, once you buy the book you can download the novel in several formats, DRM-free, 4 times, and they even ask “please, share it with your friends using our PRO piracy system and your social networks.”

But what’s more unique is that you can access a private area with:

  • Access to private downloads
  • Exclusive content
  • Gammification-badge-accomplishment system
  • Hyper-reading using smartphones, codes and online content
  • An account in the Bank of Ishtar with an initial virtual currencydeposit to invest in development of HTO packs

I wish them the best of lucks, and I applaud their initiative. These are the people who will “kill” publishers (and we should all cheer) if they don’t “get with the program”. If they were smart, and wanted to grow and stay in business competitively, major publishers should offer them a place in their boardrooms now. But we all know that it is easier to manipulate prices with monopolistic measures, go crying to government officials and the media, impose DRM even harming their own clients and the dissemination of culture, and require legislative measures which enable repression forces to chase anyone seeking culture.

Congratulations Iban and Ben! The future is yours. You have earned it.

Disclaimer: I have known Iban M. G. 7 years. But I write this post not because he is a friend, but because the project seems great.

The Circumvention Tech Festival

November 4th I had a very interesting non-business meeting in New America NYC, 199 Lafayette (New York). I met Sandra Ordonez of OpenITP, one of the organizers of The Circumvention Tech Festival.

OpenITP is an American project that supports the software developers and communities that design and develop anti-surveillance and anti-censorship in the internet (“circumvention tools”), allowing citizens to communicate directly and freely in their own terms. Their objective is to identify opportunities to improve and increase the distribution of these tools.

Right now they are organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival, event that will bring the international anti-surveillance and anti-censorship community to Valencia (Spain) March 1-6, 2015. Developers, activists, journalists, citizens, NGOs and more joining forces.

The festival will consist of a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons, and social gatherings featuring many of the Internet Freedom community’s flagship events. It will also feature two community-run series – one in English and one in Spanish, as well as public events designed to familiarize the local Valencian community with FLOSS privacy and security tools and their communities.

Website in English: www.circumventionfestival.org

Website in Spanish: www.circumventionfestival.es

Would you like to contribute? They need:

  • Small donations to help pay for Internet infrastructure, coffee, evening events, and marketing materials
  • Companies that want to setup a table in our security & privacy expo
  • Bilingual volunteers that can help man the festival for a few hours a day
  • Spanish and English speakers, that want to give a talk, or organize a hackathon/workshop relating to the FLOSS security/privacy space

Don’t miss this amazing festival, and try to help in any way you can!

My new OnePlus One phone is amazing

I have just bought a OnePlus One phone, and have been using it for a couple of days. Let me tell you: it’s AMAZING.

If you have never heard of the company, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But you should definitely check it out, because their phones are incredibly high quality, high specs, and low price (mine was $349). No catch:

  • Qualcomm© Snapdragon™ 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
  • Adreno 330 GPU, 578MHz
  • 64 GB eMMC 5.0
  • 3 GB LP-DDR3 RAM, 1866MHz
  • global 4G LTE
  • NFC5.5″ 1080p display
  • 13 megapixel 6 lens camera
  • Tri-microphone with noise cancellation

I decided to get one of these because my Samsung Galaxy S II was getting old, and I wanted to go from the limited stock Android, full of my cell carrier’s bloatware, to a more open and free Cyanogen Mod (11S), which will also allow me to experiment with advanced cell cryptography.

Purchasing one of these phones is not that easy. I guess they want to control the huge demand they are experiencing. But I got an invitation, so I decided to use it 😉

Upon receiving the package I felt something I had not feel since the first iPhone: like a fan-boy. Sorry Apple, you lost your touch long time ago, and many of us just despise how you do not care about user’s rights and freedoms.

OnePlus has put a lot of care in every detail. And after a couple of days of spending too much time using the phone (who wouldn’t?) I must say even the batter life is amazing!

AWESOME JOB, OnePlus guys!

I was forced to hack into Schiphol Airport wifi

A couple weeks ago I was at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Of course, when I arrive in an airport with enough time ahead of my boarding, I look for a plug and wifi. Luckily Schiphol is an excellent airport, offering both. The only problem is that every time I clicked on the “Enjoy unlimited free wifi – Connect” button, I got an “Unknown error 0” message back.

Don’t tell me “Enjoy unlimited free wifi” and then try to prevent me from accessing it. That is cruel and just wrong. I was told to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”, so I had to. To celebrate Free Software Day, you know.

I looked into the code, and saw an error. But luckily I also saw the way to by-pass it. All you have to do is to manually enter the correct URL, select the “Internet Voucher” option, and enter “schipholfreaccess” in both the ID and password fields (and accept the conditions). It will not give you an access screen, but you will be able to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”.

Who said hackers are not obedient?

;-p