RightsCon 2018: a review

Last week I went to RightsCon2018 in Toronto, Canada. I'm back, rested and un-jetlagged (mostly) so I figured I'd take some time to reflect on RightsCon.

image of #devicesofRightscon laptops with lots of stickers

Firstly - some session reviews.

Best session

The best session I went to was about the Rules of Cyberwarfare. The panel had Tarah Wheeler (an infosec professional), Tom Cross and Ari Schwartz (former Cybersecurity lead in the Obama National Security Council). They talked about laws of war, how cyberwarfare integrates with broader laws, there was heaps of audience engagement. Thanks to my sitting up the front and being a nigel no mate I got to talk with Ari and Tom which was wicked cool. This session was so within my wheelhouse it was almost silly.

Worst Session

Even Amie Stepanovich from AccessNow couldn't moderate this session about Intelligence Oversight to excellence. A missing panelist from the US made the group reliant on only one active overseer of intelligence agencies, who  continually conflated people sharing information on social media with social permission for Government use of invasive surveillance powers. One panelist from the Canadian Privacy Commissioners office was good, they other was EU-based and had reviewed a number of the E.U.'s national intel laws. He wasn't bad, but he used slides, took too long and barely touched the fact that while the EU is leading many Privacy and Human Rights conversations, it's member states have hugely invasive national security laws.

I gave a short contribution about NZ's Inspector-General of Intelligence & Security and her new Reference Group but all up it was not a great session and a real lost opportunity for me.

Coolest session

Kevin Bankston ran a panel with three sci-fi authors and futurists to talk about Sci-Fi as a tool for strategic thinking and planning. This was so rad and really fascinating. There was discussion about ethics, ensuring diversity of views on who technology is making society better for, how you can use sci-fi to explore ideas without them being 'owned' by people, and to show how companies how the tech they are developing could be misused before it goes to production.

My overall impression

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed RightsCon so A+. Being at a con with over 2000 people by yourself, with a community you're adjacent to, rather than embedded in was hard - especially for an extrovert like me. But it's a conference InternetNZ should be at, and so should other parts of InternetNZ's Internet Community. There were over 20 governments there and at the end of the conference I'm particularly struck by how much my policy colleagues at MBIE, DIA, Justice and DPMC would have got out of it - sessions for days (literally) about topics they are dealing with: net neutrality, AI accountability, crypto-policy, online harassment & hate speech, international trade, and on, and on. 

I now have a giant reading list and heaps of great ideas for our work in the policy team at InternetNZ.