India Times recently showcased a crypto-anarchist named JT D’souza, who believes that technology is unavoidably political, so, therefore, for those who desire to achieve stateleness, it is urgent that they understand and exploit the same technology that coercive enterprises use to extend and preserve their power. What can be used to coercive can also be used to liberate. Here is an excerpt from that profile, but I encourage you to go to the article and read the whole profile.
His demo at the Press Club shows him with candle wax and a 10-rupee Fevicol tube. It is a must-see demo about “how to fake a fingerprint”. The 62-year-old thoroughbred Mumbaikar explains the process. All you need is polyvinyl acetate (glue). Melt wax in a shallow container. Allow it to cool till it has a putty-like consistency. Press finger into the wax. Remove the finger, wait for the wax to cool till you see a negative impression of the fingerprints in the wax mould. Mix a few drops of Fevicol with a drop of water. Coat the wax mould with the water-diluted Fevicol using a make-up brush. Wait for a couple of hours for the Fevicol to dry. Peel off the Fevicol “skin”. And viola, you have a replica of the fingerprint. Curiously enough, your fingerprints change with age and environment, but the fake will last forever……
….D’souza is a geek. Free and open software, Linux and a net connection are three of his favourite things. But when he was a child, what he really cherished was “taking apart anything I could lay my grubby little fingers on. No toy would last for more than a few hours. By the time I was eight, I had picked up some mechanical skills from my Mamu who was a mechanical whiz and could put things together. I had a jolly good time tinkering with a spool tape recorder that Mamu had got home for repairs. Since he could not set it right, it stayed at our place for some time, providing me countless hours of fiddling.”
It was in 1997 that he grasped the implications of biometrics. He says, “Around 1997 we started access control systems. We thought that a fingerprintreading access control would be the ultimate security. So, we started investigating the usage of fingerprint sensors. At the time certain technologies had embargoes and could not be exported to India. So, Indians were left with limited resources to get hold of sensors. It was during investigations and test-trials that the limitations of the lower-priced optical devices became evident.”
The philosopher inside D’souza dreams of a free and fair society. He cautions a tech-Luddite like me that not only is technology not neutral, but it is political. How, I ask him? He replies, “Look at the way corporates have sought to influence patent and copyright laws, and how they have interfered in the setting up of standards. The latest one is, net neutrality.”
He says, “The digital 1 and 0 reshaped the factory floor-shop and re-organised the political equation between capital and labour. Algorithms have reshaped relationships in political power structures. The Snowdens and Mannings have stirred up digital storms making political cover-ups, onerous. But at the same time, we have a new set of threats that disrupt democratic processes: fake news, troll armies, voting machine hacks, state surveillance, stateless money.”