e.V. Verein zur Förderung von Medienkulturen in Berlin
tel: 0177 225 37 97, fax: 030 4434 18 12 [or] 313 66 78
Visomat Laboric, Berlin, <email@example.com> at the Video Organ, as well as 'Planetary Traveler', 3-D Home- made Computervideo, Jan C.Nickman, USA
The Truth About Echelon
WMF, Johannisstr. 20, Berlin-Mitte
Lounge began with a presentation by Angela Melitopoulos and Eva von Platen
who work at the Art Academy for Media in Cologne. They showed and then
commented on a video documentation of Digitale '97, a festival for art
and new media which takes place each year in Cologne. In 1997, the Digitale
bore the title "DIGITALE DIALEKTE" ("DIGITAL DIALECTS") and was concerned
with local characteristics of digital expression with video, art, music,
animation and performance from the cities of Sao Paulo, Moscow and Tokyo
serving as examples.
The bulk of mikro.lounge #2 was devoted to the issues of surveillance and cryptography technologies on the Internet. In her lecture, "The Truth About Echelon," journalist Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti from Koblenz addressed the ECHELON surveillance system: "Public authorities and secret services listen in systematically to communication satellites, read email and manipulate fundamental laws with slippery amendments. The worldwide surveillance system under the aegis of the NSA is supported in Germany by the US station in Bad Aibling. The German secret service remains outside the system, but because of permanent changes to the law, surveillance is becoming more and more possible in Germany as well." Schulzki-Haddouti the technical abilities and limits of the system and explained in full the political role of European governments which have submitted themselves uncritically to the security interests of the US with regard to ECHELON. "In the STOA Report of 1997, the system for the surveillance of commercial telecommunications satellites was mentioned in an official EU paper for the first time. In the discussions in the European Parliament that followed, Martin Bangemann was still able to innocently claim to have never known of the existence of ECHELON." But new reports, from which Schulzki-Haddouti was able to quote, present comprehensive material relating the history and operations of the ECHELON system.
A discussion between Wolfgang Coy, Professor of Computer Science at the Humboldt University in Berlin and Volker Grassmuck, a media theorist and mikro member, followed, bearing the title, "The Net as Panopticon." Wolfgang Coy, who had been teaching for two years at Humboldt University, had taught at the University of Bremen since 1979. There, he was already dealing with issues such as artificial intelligence, computer science and its uses by the military, data protection and cryptography. The central theme of his work is the relationship between computer science and society with a particular view to cultural and media and informational theoretical aspects.
Coy and Grassmuck spoke about the technological fundamentals of cryptography and the potential for real time pattern recognition in communications and about the possibility of their uses in surveillance mechanisms. Military, intelligence and civilian interests are all involved in these technologies, and they are separated only in the rarest of cases. Government intelligence operations and market research meld together, a situation that makes political engagement with these technologies very difficult. In this context, the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption system, which allows secure data communication, was also discussed. Accordingly, PGP software was distributed throughout the audience in the mikro.lounge by Ingmar Camphausen of Individual Network e.V. in Berlin.
The evening ended in a mood of informed composure. Everyone was aware that systems such as ECHELON existed, and so, discussed the options for resistance and the limits of such surveillance. In the end, Thorsten Schilling's question remained open: "Could the principle of a possible massive change from the status of consumers to producers of such surveillances bring these systems to their limits?"