Hackers and Humanitarians

We are geeks who care to use our skills to solve more than just #firstworldproblems. In doing this, we imbue the response tools we build with the values we hold. For instance, crisis mapping is built around the ideas of crowd sourcing and open source. Anyone can post, anyone can edit, and through the trends which emerge, outliers who might attempt to skew the results towards their own ends are swallowed up. Open Source communitites and participants building tools for disaster response means the people in need of assistance also gain some autonomy. The response itself is still a huge logistical and financial endeavor which must be supported by governments and other large organizations. However, the ability for us to connect to each other as *individuals* in OS lends dignity to those most in need. The people building the response tools do so because they care about both the process of tool creation and the purpose the tool will serve. The creators’ values are then hugely manifest in the tools themselves. This then affects the people using the tools.

It’s a matrix of involvement and influence. And once it’s understood, it leads to a deep sense of responsibility and awareness.
This is the reason I’m currently at DEFCON. Also because it’s a totally rad time and I adore the people here. But the culture of hacking in the United States has long been Hacking For The Sake Of Hacking. And we can do better than that – we can Do What We Do *With Purpose*. When people in crisis (or just in crap situations) are requesting help and must declare their whereabouts, name, phone number, and possibly identifying information; they should not have to worry about any repurcusions outside the actual recieving of help.
People in traditional response have this idea of Risk Management. There will always be risk. It is up to us to make the things that *cannot* fail be secure. The last thing someone who has just survived a disaster needs is their life jeapordized in more consciously malicious ways.
This is especially interesting when we get into things like protesters and refugees. I’m not asking people to pick sides (at least not in a public forum associated with my jorb), but I am asking the hackers and security kids of the world to take a look at some of the applications and services associated with humanitarian efforts and explore how they might be improved. Many of these tools have been made by enthusiastic amateurs and/or people who expect the best out of humans. We need your help.
Push your imaginary hats a little more to the #FFFFFF side. Yes, I know it’s an arbitrary term, but it sums up the idea well in this case. Play a game with a tool which will later make response more efficient and effective. Because nothing is more aggrevating than things being on fire and the door being locked from the other side.
I was interviewed on NBC about all this. It goes live on tomorrow’s Nightly News. My thoughts on it are over on my personal blog.