Video: How Edward Snowden and The Yes Men trolled music fans at Roskilde Festival

Edward Snowden and The Yes Men at Roskilde 2016

The Danish Roskilde music festival recently got into a slight controversy over signs warning festival goers about a new policy: complete surveillance of all phone and internet traffic. But it turns out that the festival, which took place over the course of June 24 to July first this year, actually trolled its visitors, hard. With the help of none other than culture jamming and hoaxing group The Yes Men and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

A feedback booth with a comedian posing as a poorly-informed PR representative of the festival was also present, to counter backlash on social media. But the actual intention of the signs and the faux policy was to lure festival goers to a certain stage at a certain time, with “anger marketing”.

What attendants got to experience was a remotely held speech by whistleblower USA Edward Snowden, an excellent speaker on topics like civil rights, privacy and mass surveillance. The massive Roskilde Festival has now released a summary of the events in a Youtube video, which also includes the confounded faces of festival goers encountering an actor who looks like Snowden.

 

It’s not about Snowden, the person

Regardless of what you think about the optics of Snowden ending up in Russia in the aftermath of his data leak in 2013 and subsequent escape from the USA, we recommend listening to what he has to say. Also worth looking into is the fact that he has no chance of a fair trial in the USA, despite his information having pushed the IT industry towards a path where privacy rights at least are a part of the conversation.

Anyone can figure out that Russian intelligence probably debriefed Snowden upon his arrival in Russia, but the former cybersecurity specialist and NSA contractor’s data leaks have indeed done a lot to raise an unprecedented awareness over information security related topics.

Most of Snowdens revelations are things that have been suspected by information security professionals for years, but were shrugged off as paranoia by the general public and decision makers in business and politics alike.

Most notably, Snowden’s leaks reveal how numerous Western countries, like the United Kingdom and Sweden collaborate with the USA to build a global mass surveillance apparatus that can harvest unfathomable amounts of information from the internet.

Slide from the PRISM presentation leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013.

A slide from a presentation leaked by Edward Snowden, where the NSA brags about infiltrating US tech companies. The likely meaning of the PRISM program is the surveillance agencies being able to eavesdrop of some data inside the networks of tech giants, rather than having gained direct access to every server these enormous companies own. Some companies have taken action to prevent misuse like this.

 

How the Snowden Leaks have helped you

The Snowden leaks included information on how Western intelligence agancies collected information from large companies like Google, by eavesdropping on private fiber optic cables. Companies like Google have since actively starting encrypting more traffic, even within their own networks, making customer data more difficult to misuse. Products like Facebook-owned WhatsApp have recently implemented really good encryption for mobile messenger apps, helping to protect the contents of chat conversations between normal, law abiding citizens.

It is no news that surveillance can used to undermine democracy and processes of social progress, as is made apparent by Snowden’s mention of how of authorities hawkishly followed every move of Dr. Martin Luther King during his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.




With today’s technology, the internet’s weakness for surveillance grants private corporations and governments alike access to information about us all, to an extent that the Soviet KGB, Romanian Securitate or East-German DDR could only have dreamt about. This is not disinformation or a dishonest spin, but a crucial breach of Rechtsstaat principles that help sustain democracy. Also, mass surveillance does little to stop terrorism.

It’s true that Russia presumably is using Snowden’s exile in propaganda and information warfare to create uncertainty and distrust towards Western governments. Making the West look like hypocrites on human rights is always convenient for the Russian state and many other authoritarian regimes. It makes it easier to defend their own practices of restricting internet use and complete digital surveillance, which occurs without any of the thinning legal buffers we still can enjoy in many Western countries.

That’s a reason in itself to stop Western intelligence agencies from undermining civilization.

 

How you can help

Members of the public can help themselves and less fortunate individuals in oppressive countries to get some online privacy by using and supporting systems like The Tor Project. Albeit being far from perfect, the open source Tor software is, within its limits, the far most efficient tool to remain anonymous online, if used properly.

No commercial vendor of for example, VPN services, can obfuscate the origin of traffic like Tor can. Users need to understand the limitations of what Tor can do for them, including but not limited to sticking to the officially supported Tor Browser, keeping it updated and not revealing information related to their regular identities while using Tor.

How Tor Works

At Ink Tank Media, we have chosen to help by hosting a Tor Relay server that participates in obfuscating the origin of traffic from users of free privacy tools like the Tor Browser.

This is a confusing field to navigate for anyone in media and advertising. The online advertising many online media companies rely on, also collects a massive amount of information! We couldn’t really run this site without ads and trackers, yet, it’s plain as day to us that the world needs to find a balance in how personal data is used.

From time to time, we work with Darknet researcher Antti Järventaus, who focuses on understanding and making some sense of some of the hard questions involved with providing anonymity to anyone who needs it.

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Lessons in life: 5 books about schooldays everyone should read

school

There’s a good reason school-stories have always done well: we can all relate, right? We might not have gone to boarding school like the Mallory Towers gals, or gotten our Hogwarts invitation like Hermione Granger, but the French class/homework/detention/Sports Day cycle is pretty much the same the world round. Children’s literature is dominated by it, whether we’re talking Enid Blyton’s The Twins at St Clare’s or Gillian Cross’s The Demon Headmaster, and the adult version, tipping into university life (a.k.a. the campus novel), is another perennial variety. So it’s not exactly obscure, but we love it all the same! Here are five examples of educational romps for all ages that kept us up all night with our torches under the bedclothes.

1. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

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A creepy classic of modern literature, this is set in a small upmarket university in Vermont, and it’s about a group of classmates who commit a murder. The characters are oddballs, in that they’re peculiarly snooty classics students, and the narrator, Richard, is so determined to impress them that he gets in way over his head… It’s melodramatic and completely mad but very, very captivating. You’ll never look at Ancient Greek in quite the same way again.




2. Back Home, Michelle Magorian

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A little girl is evacuated to the US during WWII and has a jolly old time, but then, boom, the war is over, and she’s shipped back to boarding school in England, where everything’s rotten, the other girls are awful and there isn’t anything to eat (damn those rations). And then drumroll, she meets a boy. Of course, it’s not that simple: this is a really bleak look at alienation and bullying and loss, but even if it might put you off boarding school, you’ve still got to read it! Complex and heartbreaking and, finally, uplifting.

3. Cat Among the Pigeons, Agatha Christie

agatha christie

It’s Agatha Christie so it’s got to be mystery, and this is an article about school stories, so… yes! A murder mystery set in a boarding school! If ever there were two genres that cried out to be combined… It’s got jewel thievery and spies and kidnappings and Middle Easter revolutionaries and it’s even got Poirot (albeit only briefly)! With high drama and a lot of humour, like anything by Christie, you’re going to enjoy it, even if your own school days are going to seem pretty lame in comparison.

4. Moo, Jane Smiley

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A campus novel set in an agricultural college in the American Midwest, Moo features a memorably cast of academic freaks and misfits – one is conducting experiments on an unfortunate boar called Earl – and pokes fun at the genre as a whole, with one chapter labeled ‘Who’s in Bed with Whom?’ There’s certainly a lot of bed-hopping, as well as back-stabbing and conniving, and we thought that Dr. Gift, a professor who refers to the students as ‘customers’, is right on the money for today’s educational zeitgeist, though the book itself came out in 1995. A dry satire with a complex weave of plots, this will appeal to pretty much anyone who’s worked anywhere near the university sector.




5. Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans

madeline

Bringing it back home with one for the kids, this beautiful picture book and its series of successors features a little girl – Madeline! – who’s away at a Parisian boarding school (‘an old house with vines’ where live ‘twelve little girls in two straight lines’ and their long-suffering teacher, Miss Clavel. The near-monochromatic illustrations (black, white and yellow, mostly) are gorgeous and even the slight awkwardness of the English translations of the original French rhymes don’t make this anything less than enchanting. This first book came out in 1939, and while it spawned a still-expanding franchise of spin-off and sequels, we still love the original the most: after all, a book that makes even appendicitis seem fun has got to have something going for it.

We could go on: there’s Tom Brown’s School Days, for a start, and the opening sections of Jane Eyre and Angela’s Brazil’s brilliantly anarchic stories – but which are your favourites?

Seth Godin at TED

9 cool TED talks for passionate people with good ideas

Seth Godin at TED

Let’s face it: If you can’t engage other people in things you care about professionally or artistically, your ideas are unlikely to spread.

To help you get some hold on what it means to care deeply about things and how to use all those brilliant ideas to some actual advantage in life, we’ve collected a list of TED talks by interesting and creative people. We think these will help you enjoy your focused interests as much as being circumspect about how to include others.

Some say TED talks are cheesy. Others think they’re too catchy, and that the TED talk concept oversimplies issues and imposes impossible infotainment ideals on hard questions. It does seem unfair to expect super concise TED presentations in academia, research and funding drives.

But there are tons of really hard hitting and informative TED talks out there. Many of the most charming and inspiring we’ve found originate from independently organized TEDx events. These “indie conferences” gravitate towards local speakers who are more close to ordinary humans and less superhumanly polished than the Nobel prize posse presenting at main TED events.

Let’s have a look!

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.




More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert offers a witty and warm look at common fears related to creativity. She goes on to bash unhelpful tropes and clichés about suffering artists, which have been perpetuated to the point of being a toxic hellstew of truisms. This talk is a one of the best available on TED.com about creativity and living with expectations based on previous successes.

More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Organizations are often run according to elaborate and nerve wrecking pecking orders, where value is placed on outperforming everyone. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Margaret Heffernan, a writer and veteran leader in the software industry, wants to tell the world about a better way. Her way just happens to be proven to create the most efficient teams. According to Heffernan, what tends to solve problem is not in-fighting groups of the sharpest minds, but social cohesion. If team members have the time and courage to ask each other for help, perhaps over coffee, there’s a good chance to get trust, ideas and great results in return.

More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Author, academic and South Caroline college president Ben Dunlap tells the story of his most inspiring friends. The people in question all shared a habit of life-long self-education. Dunlap’s talk prominently features the story of Sandor Teszler, a business owner and Holocaust survivor of Austro-Hungarian origin, who resettled in the southern United States to pioneer as a anti-segregation business owner.




More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Decades ago, entrepreneur Magnus Walker migrated to Los Angeles from his native Sheffield, UK with no education and a bleak future ahead of him. In his TED talk, Walker explains how he stumbled over almost silly business opportunities that lead him to create a designer brand worn by rockstars. He also shares his experience of letting go, in how he abandoned his fashion gig when things started to feel too stuck. Walker, now in the business of Porsche sports car restoration prides himself on a gut instinct that has allowed him to not become trapped by his own success.

Marketer Seth Godin’s 2003 TED talk on spreading ideas is a classic and a must watch if you want to communicate at scale. Even though the talk is thirteen years old and predates social media, one major trend in media and advertising is already identified: the diminished role of what Godin calls the “TV industrial complex”, mass media with advertising, in systematically spreading new, groundbreaking products to consumers. By stating that being a good inventor or engineer is nowhere near enough, Godin dissects the concept of modern, integrated product design and marketing. This deserves a rewatch, even if a friend of yours posted this talk on a clunkier, boxier Facebook back in 2007.

More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Repetition is the mother of learning. To further drive home Seth Godin’s points above, let’s continue on a similar note. In short, Simon Sinek says that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you want others to share a vision with you, you better get a little calculating about how to talk to the right parts of their brain, just like all these touchy-feely TED talks.

More info and subtitles on TED.com.

Branding strategist and writer Terri Trespicio pokes fun at “motivational industry” notions about following singular, main passions. Because it’s time to stop pretending everyone has loaded parents. This is however not the “Hip To Be Square” celebration of conformity one might be looking for, rather some sound reminders of how careers don’t go anywhere without making oneself available and useful for other people. Trespicio’s view on sound dedication to passion is just that: not waiting for perfect opportunities to come along but to grab on to whatever’s available and to spin it in the direction you want.




Magician Brian Miller reminds us that his field of work requires an expertise in perspective: both in controlling and observing one’s own trickery and identifying with the audience. Miller has some very down to earth observations on the social and emotional skills required for anyone delivering magic, which are very much applicable to anyone who needs to communicate a lot with family, friends, co-workers and business partners.

Know of any other awesome talks? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Fictional feasts: 5 tasty books for food-lovers

cooking

When readers think about literary food fiction, the inevitable spectre of Proust and the infamous madeleine is often invoked, or as a male friend of mine, who rarely reads, immediately exclaims, “You mean, Like Water For Chocolate?” Literary food fiction though can be so much more than that — food has and can provide fictional frameworks that enable one to tell a larger-than-life story, and simultaneously introduce you to a whole different world. Here’s a sampling across genres for the food enthusiast.

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How the British really react to a royal birth explained in one simple diagram

RoyalBirthreactions

If you base your view of the British on their media you’ll doubtless think that they have a long and enduring love affair with their royal family. Take the latest royal birth. At the time of writing, the latest addition to their clan has only been around for a few hours, yet already she is the subject an explosion of sycophantic media adoration. But the British people themselves actually have a far more practical relationship with their Greco-German overlords. To help better understand it, the wonderfully talented Angry Flat Cap has created this simple diagram. Prepare to have your preconceptions shattered, flow chart style.

royalbaby

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Mind blown! 10 philosophy books guaranteed to make you think differently

philosophy

Philosophy doesn’t have to be all Hegel and Frege, you know; like all disciplines, it might get finicky and complex for the layperson once you start scratching well below the crust, but above all else philosophy is about thinking deeply. And anyone can give that a shot, right? You gotta start someplace, and in with a discipline that ranges from economics and politics to the nature of reality and the ethics of extreme sports, there’s a lot to choose from. So forget that you haven’t read everything from Plato to Žižec, and expand your mind with the 10 best philosophy books for deep thinking newbies.

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Novelty stores: 5 weird bookshops every book lover will adore

venice

Where do you get your fiction fix – the library? The local bookstore? Online? Well, it’s time to step it up a notch: sometimes the shop itself is as fascinating as the titles you’re there to purchase. Just look at Venice’s Libraria Acqua Alta, pictured above! Here’s five more weird bookshops from around the world that you’ll give your first editions to visit…
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