Berlin hacker con will use RFID badges to simulate life in a totalitarian panopticon

The Chaos Communication Congress, held later this month in Berlin, will feature Open Attendee Meta-Data (OpenAMD) RFID badges that will track attendees' every movement, simulating life in the high-tech totalitarian state that many of the world's "free" nations are busy erecting.
Growing from the success of the OpenAMD Project at The Last HOPE in New York City this past summer, the CCC will be joining forces with to add a real time proximity detection system so users can know what other users are nearby. In addition, users can log into a web interface that will suggest talks they might like and other attendees with similar interests. With this system, attendees will be able to see where they've been, what they've been doing, and with whom.

The OpenAMD system will be using several visual effects to display this, including an AJAX visual accessible from the conference website and a 3-D visual based on cutting edge graphics technology. This year will also introduce "Beacon Royale", an RFID-based game spanning the whole building where participants engage in virtual combat against each other. The system is completely open source, open hardware, and all the tracking data will be made available to the public after the conference.

How will surveillance feel in ten years? (Thanks, Aestetix!)


  1. So what happens if using the badges actually makes things work better, more smoothly, and more satisfyingly for the participants?

  2. #1, cicada:

    That’s exactly what happened with my timelines project in 2006, archived here. Delegates could bookmark points in time and space, and review recordings of the presentations sysnchronised to their spacio-temporal bookmarks.

    RFID is a great technology. It’s apolitical. ‘Big Brother’, despite the pundit claims, appears when transparency is removed and you have no access to your data. Databases you cannot access because they are not public are the technology of oppressive regimes, not hardware generating radio signals.

  3. I’m sure it will actualy make some things run smoother? BUT not if it’s in the hands of the goverment and thus not transparent, and are you willing to give up your privacy for some advantages, while I’m sure there are alternatives that can give the same advantage without such horrible RFID tags?

  4. @3 Am I willing to give up some privacy for some advantages? Sure, depending on the advantages and the particular information. I have no problem with using customer reward programs and such that track purchasing in exchange for small discounts, for example.

    And if you’re so horrified about being tracked by RFID tags, how can you stand to go out in public…where hundreds of people can stare at you, watch you move, watch what you do, where you go, hear you talk, tell the government if you do something suspicious, etc, etc?

  5. That does not sound like a Totalitarian Panopticon at all. If the tags were used to track certain beahavior and the the ones incurring on that would be expelled from the conference, (sometimes even if they did nothing wrong, claiming they did), that, would be a totalitarian panopticon.

  6. Well if you really want to simulate a totalitarian panopticon what you need is for whomever is administering the data (read: government) to falsify that data. The result of said falsification being that the person (read: political enemies) is charged with crimes they didn’t commit yet have no way of proving their innocence.

    That’s the whole point of secrecy in any dictatorship, to provide cover for your own criminal behavior. The technological means by which you achieve that secrecy is by itself morally neutral.

  7. Ah, the CCC, I really admire them! I met some members at a demonstration in berlin against surveillance in september, very bright people. They should be boing boinged more often.

  8. I suspect that what this will mainly demonstrate is that attempts at publicizing private movements will quickly get derailed when somebody brings out the neodymium magnets…

  9. i think the panopticon might be the wrong model for this – not least of all because of the nature of the interaction of the participants. i understand that there are limits to setting up such an experiment (and people do after all want to enjoy themselves), but the panopticon model has quite specific conditions which i think are not fulfilled by the networked character of this event.

    i don’t have a better model to suggest though…

  10. The Last Hope con did the same thing. It was definitely interesting to watch the little blips on the screen moving from one room to another in real time. They gathered statistics on which talks were the most popular, among other things.

  11. MIT’s Incompatible Timesharing System had no security, so anyone could
    read other users’ files or watch other users’ screens. I lived in
    that transparent society and became its staunchest defender. Now I
    campaign against surveillance — but it is not because I have changed.

    In the transparent society of ITS, we were all working on a common
    endeavor, and there were no heated political disputes within the lab.
    Furthermore, nobody exercised power over anyone through the computer.
    Since there was no security, no one could ban anyone else from the
    computer. (The system hackers chose to omit security precisely for
    this reason.) The heads of the lab, Professor Minsky and later
    Winston, were not interested in firing anyone except if someone didn’t
    do his work. Besides which, ITS was not all of life; if you
    considered something personal, you didn’t have to put it on the lab’s

    In today’s society, some people have power over others. For instance,
    many employees are afraid of losing their jobs. if your boss can find
    out where you go, he can threaten to fire you if you go to a place he
    doesn’t like. Even doing this in regard to your work time is nasty,
    but nothing stops him from applying his demands to the rest of your
    life too.

    Suppose you and your boss have equal access to the data. Then you can
    find out where he goes during his time off. But you can’t take away
    his job if he goes somewhere you don’t like, so you cannot use the
    surveillance to control him the way he can use it to control you.
    Even if the surveillance is symmetrical, it has an asymmetrical effect
    when added it to the asymmetrical relationship between you and your

    If you are planning a protest, the police can use surveillance to
    sabotage it and even arrest you before you start. (They did this at
    the Republican National convention in August.) But even if you can
    track the police, you can’t stop them from conspiring together. You
    can’t arrest them to sabotage their plans to attack your protest.

    Total surveillance is commonly packaged in conveniences, such as
    credit cards, car navigators, cell phones, and web services. In that
    respect, this event is an accurate representation of the rest of life.
    But it would be more educative if it also showed the dangerous side
    that most people ignore.

    Suppose that, every hour, the event organizers were to randomly choose
    an attendee to label as a “terrorist suspect”, then punish him and
    everyone that he spent at least 5 minutes talking with. The
    punishment could be exclusion from the event’s activities for the next
    hour. This would teach people what is really hiding in those

    Richard M Stallman

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