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27c3 Congress, day 1: data retention lecture, amazing people and Quake on a wind fan

If you were wondering where to find your contemporary Columbus, look no further.  At 27c3, the 27th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, around 3.500 coders of cyberspace from around the world are gathered to explore unknown avenues of the New World, share their knowledge and have some serious lolz : ) Today our report of day 1, where Bits of Freedom gave a plenary lecture on data retention, met amazing people and saw how hackers play Quake on a fan.

Want to constantly gaze on the new possibilities of the digital world? And wind up in inspiring discussions on the state of cyberspace with a Professor of Cryptography, a 16 year old hacker and a Member of European Parliament? Then 27c3 is the place to be for you.

At this seminal event you will find all the people that build the digital world and those that actively campaign for it to be a positive force for freedom, innovation and democratic participation – alongside journalists, a couple of politicians, etc. This year, the congress has its 27th edition, meaning that it has been around since computing became available to the common public. In the meantime, the congress has evolved into the place to be, sells out within a couple of days and changes Berlin into the coolest and geekiest place in the world. More information on the event can be found here.

Being the cool event it is, it is famous for the high quality of its lectures. So for Bits of Freedom, the first day was all about delivering an inspiring plenary lecture on the status of data retention in the EU. Together with our friends from the German AK Vorrat and the Polish Panoptykon, we argued that the time is now to get involved in EU activism, because the evaluation of the most privacy invasive instrument in Europe – that profoundly violates the privacy of 500 million Europeans – is now underway.

Because this is the first evaluation, now is the time to criticise the principle of blanket telecommunications data retention – we won’t have a second chance in the EU. So now is the time to volunteer and if you want to, send us an e-mail at info [at] bof [dot] nl. The video of the talk will be available on the 27c3 website anytime soon – during the congress you can watch live streams of all the talks as well. The slides are here:


We worked the entire day to put it together and presented at night, did some press work and missed out on several inspiring talks. Notably the talk ‘Adventures in analuzing Stuxnet’. We did attend the opening keynote by Rop Gonggrijp, member of our Advisory Board. Make sure you read his talk, here just some thought provoking one-liners:

“As we enter uncharted terrain, we are the first generation in a long time to see our leaders in a state of more or less complete helplessness.”

“As a result of WikiLeaks, authorities the world over will probably try even harder to clamp down on internet freedom, so organizations resisting this will have to work harder also.”

“[Hackers] do understand some small part of how chaos works, and we have been able to help others deal with it better. As this world becomes more chaotic and ad-hoc, we can help.”

Day 2 is well underway and just as inspiring and fun as it was yesterday. Tomorrow, we will report on the groundbreaking hack of GSM communications with four 10 euro mobile phones, our workshop on EU wide data retention activism, a breathtaking classical music concert and loads of other geeky and amazingly cool stuff that you have never seen before.

And the shoot-em up Quake on a fan? Well, in the basement of the congress people go wild and play around with computers and other hardware. 24/7. We passed by one group, that somehow materializes a spinning wind fan as a computer monitor through Arduino FPGA board hacking with led lights. Told you so: this congress is amazing!

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