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[liberationtech] CryptoParty in Tunis tomorrow (Saturday, 1st December)

James Vasile james at
Sun Dec 2 11:45:23 PST 2012

Hey all,

Some of you know me.  For those of you who don't, I'm James Vasile, and
at OpenITP the buck stops with me.  So whatever your complaints about
our work in Tunis, I'm the right person to yell at.

First of all, everybody on the OpenITP team agreed that the real names
policy was terrible.  The policy was layered on by USAID as a condition
of InformSec bringing in a group of Syrian activists who had specific
security concerns (and they'd had a recent security breach that was
causing people to freak out a little).  From the beginning, we regretted
it and have been saying internally that we wouldn't ever put oursevles
in a position to have to request real names again.

Our intent was not to bar pseudononymous people.  We had several
pseudononymous participants, albeit all people several members of my
team had experience with.  Rather, we were trying to get a handle on who
was there and how much separation we were going to have to build in for
our Syrian contingent if their comfort demanded it.

In the end, we limited the real names policy as much as we could and
then decided we didn't want to choose between the CryptoParty and Syrian
guests.  In retrospect, we should have just made the hard choice then
and not tried to combine a CryptoParty with people who had elevated
security concerns.

So, yeah, the policy was a mistake.  I thought it was a crappy tradeoff
but that the value of getting all those people in a room would make it
worthwhile.  I figured some people would avoid the event because of it,
but my hope was the enough people would want to have the conversation
that the compromise would end up being a footnote.

Instead, people (most especially the local Tunisian community we had
been really excited to meet) took exception to the policy and we had
zero outside participation in the CryptoParty.  That really made me
unhappy, and it underscored how big a mistake the policy had been.

Just to be clear: We checked no IDs.  We gave no list of names of
CryptoParty attendees to USAID.  We had several people participating
under pseudonyms, and we reached a comfort level that allowed everybody
to mix freely by the end of the event.

So that's what happened.  I'm really sorry we made the wrong policy
choice.  And I'm really sorry we did a shit job at explaining it.  I'll
try hard not let it happen again.

OpenITP will be hosting a meetup in NY on December 17.  If anybody wants
to come by and talk about it, I'm game.  No real names required.


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