The website obfuscationsymposium.org was created to bring together experts from a variety of backgrounds who study, script, and design technologies that either simulate, detect, or are susceptible to obfuscation.
The website also provides the meaning of Obfuscation which is the production of misleading, ambiguous, and plausible but confusing information as an act of concealment or evasion. It critically explores and assesses the use of obfuscation as a strategy for individuals, groups, or communities to hide; to protect themselves; to protest or enact civil disobedience, especially in the context of monitoring, aggregated analysis, and profiling in (digital) space.
The website also puts into detail how the symposium came about and where the gathering will take place which will be at NYU on February 15, 2014, from 9.00 am to 7 pm.
Services Offered at Symposium on Obfuscation
The website features a documentation link where the events that happened at the symposium were taken into detail and put into context. The main highlights featured on this page were After the Symposium by Seda Gürses, Obfuscation and Resistance by Karen Levy, Exploiting Data Entropy by Melissa Gregg, and Slides and Visuals.
For the After Symposium, the writer pointed out the highlights which were ‘the listing of the Symposium on Obfuscation as one of “Five Intriguing Things” of the day under the rubric “Making noise as a political act” by The Atlantic author Alexis Madrigal’.
Karen Levy’s documentation on the website featured the key issues that animated the discussions: what is obfuscation for? What are its goals? When can it be deemed a success? Different participants addressed these questions in different registers. For Joe Turow, obfuscation is a tactic used by the powerful to reinscribe their power, a boundary object that separates those “in the know” (here, corporations and their lawyers) from outsiders. (Bourdieu would have a similar reading.) Or obfuscation can be an act of protest that confronts economic processes by upending algorithmic assumptions about patterns of individual behavior, as tools like Ad Nauseam illustrate. Obfuscation can be an act of the play, a game of plain-sight hide-and-seek, like the code poems Nick Montfort spoke about. Or maybe, as Susan Stryker suggested, obfuscation can be understood as having to do with individual identity and self-expression, the “codes” we all bring to our daily interactions with one another.
The website also indicated that the slides and visuals presented by Günes Acar, Claudia Diaz, Rachel Greenstadt, and Joseph Turow were The JAPH (Just Another Perl Hacker) that Nick Montfort presented at the Symposium.
The obfuscationsymposium.org website also offers a Program page where the Symposium’s program is displayed in detail, from the 9 am coffee and welcome down to the 5:30 pm closing discussion.
The website also offers a reference page where it lists all the references that the participants might need prior to joining the symposium. Some of these references featured in the website are Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum: Vernacular resistance to data collection and analysis: A political theory of obfuscation, First Monday, 16 (5), 2011, Ero Balsa, Carmela Troncoso, Claudia Diaz, OB-PWS: Obfuscation-Based Private Web Search, IEEE Symposium on Privacy and Security, 2012, and Nick Montfort, Obfuscated Code, in Mathew Fuller, software studies: a lexicon, Leonardo Book Series, 2008, Hanna Rose Shell: Preface & Introduction, in Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance, Zone Books, 2012
to name a few.
The obfuscationsymposium.org website also has an Obfuscation Tools page where they put all the tools to be discussed in the event and their corresponding definitions.
Under the Participants landing page, the website also highlighted the Invited Speakers, the Toolmakers, the Ringers, and the Moderators, and their corresponding pictures.
Under the Invited Speakers, they have Günes Acar, Finn Brunton, Claudia Diaz, Laura Kurgan, Nick Montfort, Hanna Rose Shell, Susan Stryker, and Joseph Turow. For the Toolmakers, the website included Rachel Greenstadt, Daniel Howe, and Rachel Law.
For the Ringers: Mic Bowman, Danah Boyd, Ted Byfield, Vincent Toubiana, Ken Anderson, Jean-François Blanchette, Jamie “Skye” Bianco, Elana Zeide, Ed Felten, Joe Bonneau, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, and Alex Campolo.
The Moderators specified were Heather Patterson, Erica Robles-Anderson, Joris van Hoboken, and Malte Ziewitz.
The website’s bottom part shows the symposium’s sponsors which are NYUSteinhardt, NYU Law, Information Law Institute, Crisp NYU-poly, and ISTC Social.
The website’s About Us page shows the contact information of the members of the program committee: [email protected] and a brief description of each of the committee members.
History of the Obfuscation Symposium
To note, Obfuscation symposium is organized jointly by NYU’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and Information Law Institute is co-sponsored by the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing (ISTC-SC) and is supported by the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Privacy and Security at NYU School of Engineering.