The big draw on Wednesday morning at WHD.global 2014 was the keynote panel with a special (virtual) visitor, Julian Assange, as well as Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange and Ditlev Bredahl, CEO of OnApp.
Assange, the controversial founder of Wikileaks who has been living under asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, spoke to a packed conference room about the issue of data privacy, legislation and power, as well as web hosts and their role in the online privacy equation.
Throughout the presentation, Assange emphasized the importance of encryption and legislation in connection to privacy. He says that bulk encryption can create a channel through hostile countries like the US, and expected the EU to see new standards in legislation around minimum security requirements.
“Individuals are concerned; why is it that powerful organizations in the West, primarily, feel that they need to invest in multi-nation state surveillance?” Assange says. “Isn’t it a threat to the independence of other states and other organizations? Yes, yes it is.”
In Europe, countries like Germany and Iceland have been striving for independence from US surveillance, a selling point for hosting customers concerned about privacy. While the privacy conversation is nothing new for Assange, or web hosts, it was interesting to have the conversation steered toward a hosting audience. Typically, the privacy conversation in the mainstream media is linked to more consumer services like Google Apps.
“Hosters are a new type of jurisdictional refugee,” Assange says.
“There are many good reasons for police to investigate international crime that involves hosters,” Assange says. “But there has to be some really clear rule that is defined to [hosting] clients about under which circumstances information is given.”
Most hosts already have these policies in place, and some companies try to be transparent with customers around what kind of government requests they receive, and what kind of requests they are legally obligated to act on.
While there isn’t much positive that Assange can say about surveillance, he did mention that there has been lots of innovation in security over the years and now those providers don’t have as hard of a time explaining why their security tools or services are needed.
Though Assange talked a lot about encryption, it is certainly not the whole solution to the issue of surveillance. Open source isn’t either, according to Assange.
“We know that open source is not entirely a solution,” Assange says. For example, the encryption bug in Debian SSH. “It was found and revealed because it is open source.”
People are also a weak link. Assange asked the audience whether the companies they work with or their employees can withstand a bribe.
During the discussion, the moderator asked Assange who should decide what information should be shared, or if thinks there are any secrets that should not be revealed.
“We are all to judge. We live in an international society, it’s not kindergarten,” Assange says.
“Through our behavior, what we support, what we don’t support, what we do – we decide what information enters into our human historical record,” he says.
Here are some of the tweets from the keynote:
— OnApp (@OnApp) April 2, 2014
— Michele Neylon (@mneylon) April 2, 2014
— Plus Hosting Hr (@PlusHostingHr) April 2, 2014