[tor-reports] Recollections from OHM2013

Lunar lunar at torproject.org
Sun Oct 13 10:51:09 UTC 2013


Here's some personal feedback about the OMH2013 [1] event that happened
early August. Better now that never. :)

OHM2013 is all about context. This event is set in the tradition of
hackers' camp that happened in the Netherlands every four years since

Yet, after the previous event, HAR2009, some people in the dutch
community felt pretty uneasy. This lead groente, who has been involved
in the scene for more than a decade, to publish a blog post [2]
questioning the choice of sponsors and also the affiliation of some core
members of the organization team. My understanding of the issue that was
raised here centered around the following questions: Can Fox-IT — a
security company which has worked on dragnet surveillance devices, who
works daily with the Dutch cybercrime unit and who has supported laws to
enable legal backdoors — be considered part of the hacker community?

The orga team reacted to the sponsor issue with an official
statement [3] and a desire to make “funding and ethics” one
of the topics to be discussed during the event. I remember hearing
unconvinced reactions and very emotional discussions on Twitter.

Another outburst came up with a leaked message from the core orga
mailing list where one of the main organizer very ligthtly relayed
that the cybercrime unit was thinking of having its own tent and
that he was supportive of this idea [4]. The shitstorm that
followed was not nice, and the level of discussions pretty depressing,
some of the them simply boiling down to “we, Dutch people, don't have
a problem with our cops, stop importing your US issues.”

[1] https://ohm2013.org/
[2] http://www.puscii.nl/blog/content/whats-wrong-kids-these-days
[3] https://ohm2013.org/site/sponsors/sponsor-policy-faq/
[4] http://nopaste.info/2c81ef8582.html

In the meantime, every month from last February had seen TA3M
evenings in Amsterdam [5] (an initiative coming from OpenITP). To
people involved, these events proved that a bigger place was needed
to debate consequences of technologies. In April, re:publica [6] 2013
happened in Berlin, and because of the aforementioned issues, OHM
came up as a topic. It felt like a statement of some sort had to be
made: it had to be either boycott, or organizing a parallel event or
hijacking it from the inside. Given this idea of connecting more local
groups from Berlin and Amsterdam with the broader community, the latter
option was retained.

[5] http://wiki.openitp.org/events:techno-activism_3rd_mondays:amsterdam
[6] http://re-publica.de/en/history

The camp is made of “villages”, set up by different groups of people.
For OHM2013, there was 130 different villages registred. The Noisy
Square [7] — “because revolutions don't happen in Silent Circles” —
started with just a 5×5m tent with only Greenhost and Bits of Freedom
involved… and then many other organizations jumped in.  In the end, it
was a village big enough to be mentioned both in the official schedule
and maps. Noisy Square motto was “putting the resistance back into OHM”
and several organizations close to Tor helped with volunteers and
content (EFF, Tactical Tech, Torservers.net, Nos Oignons for the closest
ones to Tor).

If you have never been to such event, it's hard to imagine it. The whole
camp is made of more than 3000 people, network, power, blinking lights,
tents, and crazy ideas. The pictures [8] will hardly reflect how many
events, bonds and “cross-pollenizations” are happening each single
seconds of the 5 days.

It's probably not much related to the Noisy Square, but everyone
was chating about Tor, along with other prominent privacy enhancing
technologies. gmc — who took the questions regarding Fox-IT
personally [9] — ended his opening talk with “go out and create crypto
for the masses.”

[7] https://ohm2013.org/wiki/Village:Noisy_Square
[8] https://ohm2013.org/wiki/POIDH
[9] http://wordpress.metro.cx/2013/03/30/on-hackerspaces-fox-it-and-ohm2013/

I kept hearing “Tor” while walking the camp, but according to various
discussions that came to my ears, there are (still?) many
misconceptions in people's mind about its capabilities, risks, works
in progress or project inner-workings. Many random discussions that I
had over the 5 days were dragged to discuss Tor at some point…

Tom had scheduled an hour long social time for network relay
operators. It was a little bit crowded for the size of the small
second Noisy Square tent and the sun made it very hot. From memory,
in various breakouts, people discussed hardware for datacenters,
low-power hardware for homes, software setups, legal issues and
strategies on how to interact with ISPs.

Tom decided to cancel the other event he had planed on “how to help
to improve Tor” has he did not have enough time to prepare it
properly. I still went to the tent in case some people had not been
aware of the change in the schedule. 2-3 people told me they only
came to listen and get a better idea, but 5 others stayed for a
little bit while we discussed the various areas of the project that
needed help. I've spent quite same time telling all about pluggable
transports to someone who was a regular contributor several years ago.

Alessandro Luongo did a lightning talk about something called the
TorScanner [10].

There was also a meeting about Tor2web [11]. From Moritz account,
Fabio and Evilaliv3 gave a short overview over recent Tor2web software
development. Tor2web is now a streaming proxy that immediately relays
traffic while rewriting links in memory, and currently does not cache
anything. The operator of onion.to has no time to maintain it any longer
and offered it to Tor2web. During meeting, we decided to put onion.to
under the legal hood of Zwiebelfreunde, we found two providers who will
donate servers and bandwidth (Greenqloud and CINIPAC), and a system
administrator willing to maintain the service. Apart from the new
sysadmin (that I have known for some time and that I trust) there were
no “outsiders” present.

Noisy Square closing event was a talk from Eleanor Saitta — who
decided to boycott the camp and was only there for this speech — in
which she addressed several issues that feels determinant to the
work we do. I recommend listening to the audio [12] or reading the
rushed transcript (that was published 7 hours after the end of the
talk) [13].

[10] https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-talk/2013-August/029181.html
[11] https://program.ohm2013.org/event/256.html
[12] https://noisysquare.com/eleanor_saitta_ethics_and_power_in_the_long_war.mp3
[13] https://noisysquare.com/ethics-and-power-in-the-long-war-eleanor-saitta-dymaxion/

As orga confessed “the recording setup simply was not as robust as it
should have been”, and so the video coverage of the event is quite
incomplete. You can still find some material at the following locations:


I wonder if Tor should have appeared more promently as part of
Noisy Square and how it could have been involved. Tor is not out
of some of the critics that were raised toward more visible “bad
guys”: we have contacts with law enforcement agencies and some of our
sources of funds comes from state offices. In my eyes, our defense
here is that we work on a technology that empowers everyone without
discrimination and that needs every possible audience to work as

Being more integrated with things like the Noisy Square would strengthen
our ties with other organizations that could support or help us. I am
particularily thinking about Tactical Tech, their training sessions and
materials, and Bits of Freedom who already hosted an OONI meeting, or
RiseUp! who regularily advertise Tor to its users.

(Thanks to Dosch for some historical details on Noisy Square
and Isis for proofreading.)

Lunar                                             <lunar at torproject.org>
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