Prague-based economists and IT experts to debate the human cost of data harvesting

The seventh annual Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis will focus on digital totalitarianism in the COVID era

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 29.09.2020 13:02 (updated on 29.09.2020)

The harvesting of data by third parties to monitor (and benefit from) the online behavior of users is a hot topic around the world. The debate has recently entered a whole new dimension in the era of COVID-19 where digital-tracing technologies can track the movement of the infected.

The social impact of such technologies as well as the rise of automonous zones, and the opportunity to view crypto-currency-funded artworks in the first physical gallery of digital art will be the focus of this seventh annual Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis taking place online and in the Prague-based Paralelní Polis cryptocafe from October 2-4.

"The rise of global Internet services and the availability of online communication technologies have meant that in exchange for greater convenience, speed and efficiency, we provide part of our privacy in the form of massive amounts of data," says Milan Pulkrábek, a member of the Paralelní Polis Association. "These can easily be abused by the state or third parties for their own benefit."

Pulkrábek says this year's congress, comprised of 20 speakers, will discuss ways around leaving a digital footprint. "We know the tools, we are looking for regulatory holes and technological ways to avoid this monitoring. We are not able to prevent it, nor do we have the means to do so, but we can defend ourselves. In a virtual environment, you can hide, use encrypted communication, pay with anonymous decentralized currency, simply without leaving a digital footprint. ”

David Friedman, an American economist and legal theorist is just one of speakers who will address what conference organizers have termed encroaching "digital totalitarianism". Also attending, Riccardo Spagnia aka Fluffypony, administrator and member of the Monero Core Team and co-author of the decentralized Tari protocol. Monero is a cryptocurrency that is currently considered the most anonymous, also called "digital cash".

Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Thepdet, who became the first "seasteaders" in the world when they started living on a floating platform on the open ocean 13 nautical miles off the coast of Thailand will speak to the congress on the concept of autonomus zones.

Visitors can also view a curated selection of art funded by the cryptocurrency Ethereum in the first physical gallery of digital art, or NFT art. "NFT cryptoart and the whole new digital art market have grown over the last two years, offering unexplored possibilities, straightening the relationship between artist and collector," says Martin Fischer, a member of Czech arts collective Ztohoven.

Pavol Lupták, founding member of Paralelní Polis / photo Pavel Sinagl
Pavol Lupták, founding member of Paralelní Polis / photo Pavel Sinagl

The conference will also discuss the rise of tracking technology during the current global pandemic.

"The concept of digital totalitarianism has taken on a new dimension in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, and technologies that help monitor the movement of people and interfere with their personal freedom are multiplying globally," says Pavol Lupták, one of the founders of Paralelní Polis. "At the congress, we will address, among other things, the questions of how individuals can escape from continuous monitoring."

Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis is a flagship project of the non-governmental non-profit organization Paralelní Polis which convenes IT experts from all over the world to discuss freedom and cryptanarchy, decentralized economy and cryptocurrencies, political art and hacking, science and technology. Events are also held at La Fabrika Theater and bring together arts, science, and technology.

This year a portion of the takes will take place online. Details for those events can be found here. Tickets can be purchased at paralelnipolis.cz