Editor's Note: Hackers Defend Liberty
Feb 18, 2011, 23:03 (16 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)
by Carla Schroder
We've all seen the many failures of the law, of government
and business. That's where hackers come in.
I'm one of those grouchy old geezers who resents that
hacker is nearly always used to mean "criminal who breaks
into computer systems to do bad things". Hacker and hack mean a lot
of different things:
With such a long history of negative connotations it's no wonder
that computer hacker slides so easily into a negative
meaning. If we go with the classic negative definitions then
Microsoft is the top computer hacker of all time.
- A golfer without skill, a weekend hacker on the golf
- An ordinary, nothing special saddle horse: "We rented a hack
for the weekend for trail riding"
- A writer or artist with little skill or talent, or a writer or
artist doing low-quality hack work
- A bought politician with no principals is a political hack
But I like rescuing good words from sad bad fates, and so I
cling to Eric Raymond's
"1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of
programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as
opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum
I also like tinkerer, as defined by Freedom to Tinker:
"6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an
astronomy hacker, for example.
"7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively
overcoming or circumventing limitations.
"The term 'hacker' also tends to connote membership in the
global community defined by the net."
"Your freedom to understand, discuss, repair, and
modify the technological devices you own."
It amazes me that this is a concept that we actually have to
defend. If it weren't for hackers jailbreaking PS3s and Apple
devices, breaking laughably weak copy protection schemes, and
exposing the many weaknesses of proprietary products we would have
no way out. It is amazing and amusing, in the most bitterly cynical
way, that instead of improving their shoddy products the goons I
mean fine upstanding titans of industry instead resort to
jackbootery, to pushing through terrible legislation like the DMCA,
terrible international treaties like ACTA, wholesale abuse of the
civil courts, and unrestrained invasions into our personal
business. It's a sickness.
Mitigating the Failures of Business and Government
Hackers get things done with no strings attached. After Hurricane
Katrina struck hackers were setting up free community wireless
networks while the criminally incompetent FEMA chief Michael Brown
was goofing around
sending "funny" emails like "Can I quit now? Can I come home?"
The Helios Project,
Free Geek, GeekCorps, Software Freedom Law Center,
Free Software Foundation,
Electronic Frontier Foundation,
and Electronic Privacy
Information Center are just a few of the many groups and
individuals doing good and necessary work, often in opposition to
government and business. Not that there is much of a separation
between the two anymore.
Hackers gave us PGP, Tor, and anonymizers. Hackers find ways
around the fences that world governments keep putting up on the
Internet, and the silly tollgates that business keeps trying to
herd us through.
When the law fails, when government fails, when greed and
corruption triumph that is when we need hackers the most-- hackers
of technology, law, journalism, community service, of every
essential job and workaround that needs doing. Hackers of