EFF-Austin Social Meetup

Here at EFF-Austin, we regularly schedule monthly meetups on a variety of interesting topics that are hosted by a diverse set of knowledgeable speakers. While these events are great for educating our community, they don’t always afford the most time for our followers to get to know each other, as there often isn’t a lot of time before or after the talks for people to converse. In the past, we’ve hosted a lot of non-meetup events that gave people a chance to get to know each other in a more socially conducive environment, and, with a fully staffed board again, we feel the time is right to start having additional events again.

Join us Thursday, September 8th, at the Butterfly Bar starting at 6pm for food, drink, and good company! Feel like talking about wonky digital civil liberties issues? Go for it! Just wanna hang out with your fellow geeks/activists and share a beer? That’s why we’re doing this! Don’t feel like talking and wanna catch The Vortex Theatre’s puppet play, Atlantis? We’ll have some discounted tickets available if that sounds more your speed!

Come on out, we hope to see there.


August 8th Meetup – Digital Literacy: More Than Just Job Skills

How do technologies extend human capacity and how do they restrain it? What is the positive potential of technology’s amplifying power and what is the negative potential? What holistic development should proceed this amplification? These questions are relevant to responsible engagement with information technologies and the policies surrounding them, but are often missing from conversation in our consumer culture. This consumer culture often includes the people who teach our kids, write our laws, and develop our apps, so what must be done?

When news broke that Facebook was conducting “scientific research” through the alteration of newsfeeds, the mass media and the public broke into a frenzy. People were disturbed that Facebook would intentionally adjust the way personal information between friends and family was delivered. What many did not realize is that their complaint was over a relatively minor adjustment to the relationship-­shaping algorithm that a billion+ people feed and consume each day. Facebook and similar information services shape our intake of social and news information, yet few take the time to consider how the power­-biases affect our lives. In turn, some suggest that conversations like these should be a part of the “liberal arts of the information age.”

Beyond learning how to navigate an interface, the proposed “social study of technology” aims to help individuals develop contextual understanding of technologies and services, in the goal of supporting a largely confused and submissive public. This contextual look at technology can include an economic, technological, and social review of tools and services. The aim of this meetup is to discuss what key digital literacy concepts or facts are missing from popular conversation and education, why they are important, and how we can promote this knowledge. EFF­-Austin has gathered a set of masters in the digital education, policy, rights, and entrepreneurial fields to discuss the matter.

Dr. Robert Friedman of Mozilla Foundation

Robert Friedman works to advance the promise of the Internet for learning by supporting and connecting educators and technologists to collaboratively co-create innovative solutions to shared problems of practice and to leverage the Open Web. Robert is the founding Portfolio Strategist for Hive Austin, the newest member of Mozilla’s global family of urban learning networks; he is here to support Austin EdTech innovators with a grant opportunity from the NSF Gigabit Community Fund at Mozilla. A very recent arrival to Austin, Robert hails from Chicago where he cultivated his practice at Hive Chicago and before then, as an educational designer and manager at the Adler Planetarium. Robert also holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from his past life as a research scientist.

Sean Duffy of EdTech Austin and MakerSquare Austin

Sean Duffy is an educator and edtech leader who is passionate about helping to make meaningful change in education through technology and community-building. Sean is the founder of EdTech Austin, co-­founder of EdTech Action and the lead Organizer for Startup Weekend Education in Austin, TX. Currently, Sean is currently responsible for Employer Partnerships and Hiring with Reactor Core and MakerSquare Austin.

Dr. Sharon Strover of The University of Texas Radio­-TV­-Film

Dr. Strover is the Philip G. Warner Regents Professor in Communication of the Radio-­TV­-Film Department at the University of Texas, where she teaches communications and telecommunications courses and directs the Technology and Information Policy Institute. Some of her current research projects examine local and statewide networks and broadband services; the relationship between economic outcomes and investments in digital media programs in higher education; social media; the digital divide; rural broadband deployment; e-government; telecommunications infrastructure deployment and economic development in rural regions; and market structure and policy issues for international audio­visual industries.

Jon Lebkowsky of EFF­-Austin and Polycot Associates

Jon Lebkowsky is a web consultant/developer, author, and activist who was the co­-founder of FringeWare, Inc., an early attempt at e-commerce and online community. FringeWare’s email list, called the FringeWare News Network, established an international following for the organization, which also opened a store in Austin, Texas. Along with Nancy White, he co-­hosts the ongoing Virtual Communities Conference, the Blog Conference, and the public Inkwell Conference at the seminal online community, the WELL.

Monday, August 8, 2016 at Capital Factory

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July Meetup: Cyborg Civil Liberties and the Rights of Man

Our speaker this month (Monday, July 11th) will be Rich MacKinnon. Rich is a former president of EFF-Austin and former member of the boards of the ACLU of Texas and the Central Texas Civil Liberties Project. He was present at the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the Los Altos Hills and attended the first Conference for Computers, Freedom and Privacy as a student researching the raid on Steve Jackson Games and the nascent Electronic Communications Privacy Act. He was the first political scientist in cyberspace and published the Cybergovernance trilogy on governance, crime, and punishment in virtual realities. While a graduate researcher in the UT ACTLAB, he began developing a theory of cyborg identity under the mentorship of Sandy Stone. He’s currently the founder of Borgfest, a human augmentation expo and cyborg pride festival so that he can share his cyborg theory with people through music, entertainment, and food rather than lectures and books.

As technologically-enhanced humans comprised of software, hardware and wetware, we will personally become a battlefield for intellectual property rights and the 3rd party ownership of our bodies. In the last century, civil liberties were understood in regards to the sanctity of our persons and bodies, the property we possess, and the manner in which we engage others. The 21st century reconceives the bodily boundaries as the fight moves inwards. It is a pitched battle for the ownership, licensing, and control of our augmented, alternative, and synthetic anatomies and the data and telemetry produced by them. Already, there are those walking among us whose bodies, likely unbeknownst to them, are a matrix of license and service agreements, limited warranties, and unilateral privacy policies.

Plainly put, what happens when your cyborg body part is legally understood as property as opposed to being a part of you? What are the legal challenges faced by cyborgs when parts of their bodies are owned by someone else?

Keeping in mind the distinction among civil liberties, other statutory guarantees, contractual rights, and moral claims, what challenges to our 20th century understanding of our rights can we anticipate since so much is based on the assumption that we are our bodies and our bodies, and everything which comprises them, are understood as an individual rather than a conglomeration of corporate owners operating within a human host.

What rights and liabilities do hosts have with respect to their internal property owners and vice versa? For instance, if an artificial organ maker is subject to a lawful remote search of an asset within one’s body, does the host have the right to know and/or object to the intrusion? Even the framing of the discussion is critical since the host and provider model is perhaps inherently a dehumanizing and disempowering construction. Or is it?

Could there be a basis for “humanizing the whole body” by the naturalization of third-party property introduced into the body and eventually superseding third-party claims? In other words, if it’s in you or attached to you, then it’s yours after a point, regardless of the contracts and property laws. Would such an effort undermine the development of beneficial cyborg technology and/or healthcare?

Join us for a discussion of these questions and more.

Monday, July 11, 2016 at Capital Factory

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Cyborg Olympics

If you find yourself in Zurich this fall, check out the inaugural cyborg Olympics.


Apple Patents Technology To Remotely Disable Your Cellphone Camera

Apple has patented a technology that can remotely disable the camera on your cell phone via an infrared signal. Ostensibly created to prevent people from taking pictures and video at concerts and movie theaters, or to prevent students from cheating on tests, it’s only a matter of time before this is used by law enforcement to prevent the lawful recording of their actions or by governments to prevent protestors from documenting retaliation against their assemblies.