The Role of Hackers in Countering Surveillance and Promoting Democracy

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

The Role of Hackers in Countering Surveillance and Promoting Democracy

  • Sebastian Kubitschko Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen, Germany

Abstract  Practices related to media technologies and infrastructures (MTI) are an increasingly important part of democratic constellations in general and of surveillance tactics in particular. This article does not seek to discuss surveillance per se, but instead to open a new line of inquiry by presenting qualitative research on the Chaos Computer Club (CCC)—one of the world’s largest and Europe’s oldest hacker organizations. Despite the longstanding conception of hacking as infused with political significance, the scope and style of hackers’ engagement with emerging issues related to surveillance remains poorly understood. The rationale of this paper is to examine the CCC as a civil society organization that counter-acts contemporary assemblages of surveillance in two ways: first, by de-constructing existing technology and by supporting, building, maintaining and using alternative media technologies and infrastructures that enable more secure and anonymous communication; and second, by articulating their expertise related to contemporary MTI to a wide range of audiences, publics and actors. Highlighting the significance of “privacy” for the health of democracy, I argue that the hacker organization is co-determining “interstitial spaces within information processing practices” (Cohen, 2012, p. 1931), and by doing so is acting on indispensable structural features of contemporary democratic constellations.

Keywords  big data; civil society organization; counter-power; democracy; hacker; locative media; media technologies and infrastructures; participatory media; privacy; surveillance

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