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How Brazilian Activists Took Charge When Public Demand For Internet Security Intensified

COUNTER SURVEILLANCE SUCCESS STORY: SIMPLIFIED

How Brazilian Activists Took Charge When Public Demand For Internet Security Intensified

What: 

In an effort to make crypto available to the general public in Brazil, a group of São Paulo activists organized a free event, termed “CrytpoRave,” that provided digital rights enthusiasts from all backgrounds a full 24 hours of partying, activities, talks, debates, and workshops on topics about security, cryptography, hacking, freedom of speech, and privacy.

Who: 

Volunteers from all over São Paulo made this event possible, along with help of several organizations including, but not limited to, Actantes, Escola de Ativismo, O Teatro Mágico, Saravá, MS², Thoughtworks, Indymedia Brasil, RNP.br, Filmais, and (ISC)²

Where: 

São Paulo, Brazil

May 2015 update: CryptoRave 2015 took place on April 24-25. The event provided over 35 activities to the public in São Paulo, surpassing the previous year in quality and quantity. More than 2,000 people congregated at the Centro Cultural São Paulo for conferences, hacking, installation fests, and open tables to discuss Brazil's debate on Marco Civil, net neutrality, and other privacy and surveillance topics, demonstrating the sheer force of Brazilian activists and digital rights groups. With more than 600 people gathered on Friday, April 24 for the CryptoRave, EFF's international rights director, Katitza Rodriguez, and Andre Meister, an investigative journalist from Netzpolitik, kicked off the event with a keynote speech titled, “Mass Surveillance and Social Control.” Eva Galperin, global policy analyst at EFF, followed with a speech called “Threat Models: What you need to know." Also in attendance were Peter Sunde, keynote speaker and co-founder of The Pirate Bay, and Micah Anderson of the LEAP Project.

During the event, EFF talked with several activists from Brazil about the importance of cryptography and its implications in the context of public debate, as well as concerns regarding privacy and freedom online. Here's what they had to say.

The Surveillance Practice

Stemming from the Snowden revelations and a growing demand for digital security in Latin America, Brazil played host to a CryptoParty in 2013—a global and decentralized event aimed at spreading the fundamental concepts of basic encryption software.  In early 2014, activists in São Paulo were inspired by the success of the CryptoParty and decided to organize a second local event where they merged music and crypto—resulting in a 24-hour long event called the CryptoRave full of back-to-back activities, workshops and a real dance party.  Organizers wanted to bring people from a variety of different backgrounds together to debate and attend workshops that would cover digital security topics that hadn’t been broached before in Brazil.

The Event

In order to plan this huge party, a team from a variety of different backgrounds including IT, academia, and activism was formed, garnering support and inspiration from organizations, collectives, and groups in the area. More than five organizations and 20 individuals were involved in organizing the event, helping with workshop coordination, expenses, music, web design and hosting, photography and media coverage.

The CryptoRave took place on April 11, 2014 at the São Paulo Culture Center and organizers estimate over one thousand people attended. The 24-hour long event kicked off with an opening lecture on the militarization of cyberspace by Jérémie Zimmermann and Brazilian free software advocate, Sérgio Amadeu. Following the lecture, there were three workshop sessions and talks given until 1am. Then the music and party started, lasting all through the night.  Five different DJs were invited to spin their tracks during the rave, each bringing a unique musical style to the table; tunes included “Chiptunes” (synth and electronica beats taken from items like Game Boys and music like DJ Thomas from Voodoohop, an alternative/underground São Paulo party. The organizers were purposeful in their CryptoRave planning—starting the event with welcome lectures and jumping right into the party was key, for it allowed people from all different social circles to come together, interact, and talk about their projects and work.  It was in this space that you could find activists, activists from social movements, lawyers, journalists, and techs all bonding.

The next morning, everyone chipped in the cook a collective breakfast in order to be properly fueled for the events of the day to come.  The CryptoRave events were divided into local discussions, world discussions, advanced technical talks, and workshops (essentially sophisticated “how-to’s"). The talks were generally lecture-based and lasted, on average, one to two hours, whereas the workshops were more interactive and taught people how to install and use crypto applications. The organizers made sure there was a decent mix of topics, covering the basics, like “What’s Cryptography,” along with more advanced discussions like “Principles for Internet Governance,” in order to accommodate novice and advanced participants alike.  Important Brazilian cryptographers were invited to the event, like Pedro Rezende from Brasilia University, Paulo Barreto from São Paulo University, and Diego Aranha from Campinas University (UNICAMP). They held talks about new ciphers, general cryptography and even discussed cryptopolitics. During the 24 hours, there was a designated space where participants could install free and open source software such as Linux distros and encryption tools. They also played a tech-based “Capture the Flag” game that required people to find flaws on various servers and systems.  Additionally, the CryptoRave website played host to digital security manuals including "Sarava's Security Manual,” "Encryption Works," and Actantes Tutorials.  From micro to macro, and beginner to advanced, the CryptoRave provided activities for many different audiences.

There were several factors that contributed to the CryptoRave's success.  First, the demand for more digital security resources was palpable in Brazil—thus the organizers made the event as inclusive as possible. They also chose a public venue (the Centro Cultural São Paulo) that was strategically located near a subway station which allowed people from all over the city to attend. Additionally, because the CryptoRave was a 24-hour long event, the venue provided enough comfort for people to sleep if necessary.

Promotion for the event included outreach to digital rights organizations and individuals, along with a polished website, attractive email mailings, and social media posts.  A press release was distributed to more traditional media outlets, but organizers say they gave them little attention.  As such, they targeted much of their promotion via blogs, websites, and social media which were all successful in spreading the word. They also used print collateral—printing 20,000 newspapers and distributing them at universities and other public venues.

While the event was hugely successful, the group did encounter some challenges while planning. The organizers were all volunteers and they were working with a very small budget.  There wasn’t enough time to do a crowdfunding campaign so the organizers approached their various partners in the field and asked for sponsorship to cover the cost of the event.  It took a lot of effort and time to establish these sponsors, but the outcome was that some of the sponsors became very involved and strong supporters of the event.

At the end of the day, the CryptoRave was wildly successful, bringing crypto to Latin Americans who were calling for this type of digital security education and access.

*The next CryptoRave is scheduled for April 24-25, 2015 and it's set to be crowdfunded.

Lessons Learned

  • Hosting a party at the start of the CryptoRave was a huge success; a social event to kick things off allows people from all different walks of life who care about digital security to connect and network with others with whom they normally wouldn’t.
  • Create a Code of Conduct and send it to all the attendees before the event.  This is particularly effective when you want an event to be all-inclusive since tech events are often intimidating for new people who want to learn.
  • If someone criticizes your event because they don’t see any talks or workshops about "x" theme on the event schedule, invite them to organize it next time!

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