Young Pirates Surveil Government Officials at Security Conference

Young Pirates Surveil Government Officials at Security Conference

The Swedish Pirate Party’s youth organisation Young Pirates recently visited a security conference in Sälen, Sweden – and took the opportunity to track a hundred government officials, politicians, journalists and others through an open WiFi network.

The annual Society and Defence conference always attracts a number of prominent guests, including top politicians, government officials, journalists, and top leaders of the mass surveillance establishment. The conference frequently gets its publicity stunts and surprising political statements, but the Young Pirates president Gustav Nipe and vice president Elin Andersson took on quite an original stunt of their own.

Just as a panel talk on Internet defence was commencing, the organisation revealed that it had spied on a vast number of visitors through their own public WiFi. Gustav Nipe said in an op-ed:

We set up an open wireless Internet access point (called Open Guest). A number of conference visitors connected to the Internet via the access point and surfed the web. All the traffic through our wireless network was then logged.

Among their findings was a number of government officials signing onto government email server through the unencrypted open network, something Nipe says is clear professional misconduct. Visitors were also seen surfing for places to go hiking and logging onto Skype and eBay, all this during “work-time” at the conference, something Nipe refers to as “embarrassing“.

The Young Pirates argue that while this was a stunt to show the real surveillance, that the Swedish government constantly uses on its citizens, they will not use the information to embarrass any individuals. The now encrypted metadata will be analysed for some information and after that erased. Elin Andersson, vice president of the youth organisation, told Pirate Times:

We did it because the people pushing for more surveillance have never imagined being subject to surveillance themselves. Unsecure networks and IT-infrastructure is a threat to every user, not just ‘bad people’.

The story has broken into quite a lot of mainstream media in Sweden – after first released as an op-ed on Nyheter24, it has since made it onto Dagens Nyheter, the biggest morning newspaper, as well as into a national telegram through TT and the morning news with Svensk Television. The jury is still out on the legality of the stunt, which has become its own topic of discussion in media.

Featured image by Lars Johansson: Gustav Nipe and Elin Andersson.

Anton Nordenfur

About Anton Nordenfur

I'm party organiser for the Swedish Pirate Party, and work as a freelancing writer and translator. I'm primarily interested in research politics and LGBTQ rights, and blog in Swedish over at antonnordenfur.com.

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