Hearing of the European Parliament to the G7 Conference "Information Society" Februar 1995

Andy Mueller-Maguhn / Chaos Computer Club e.V.

Statements on the information society


Electronic networks will soon be an essential part of public life in the information society of today. But the development of the data highway by commercial enterprises is not sufficient.

The requirements of a democratic information society, which have to be provided by the governments, are "data pavements" e.g. facilities that are easy to reach and allow every citizen free access to the networks. Public institutions must be accessible via these "data pavements".

Taking part in the information society should not be a question of money. Everybody needs the possibility of taking part in public life, of expressing himself as an information exponent, and of keeping himself informed freely.

Basics about the Chaos Computer Club

The Chaos Computer Club is a galactic community of beings, not dependent of age, sex, race, and social position, that is committed to freedom of information accross borders, considers the effects of technology on both society and individual, and furthers the knowledge about this development.

The Chaos Computer Club formed itself in 1981 as a circle of computer experts who discussed electronic communication. Since 1984, the magazine "Datenschleuder" has been published and the yearly "Chaos Communication Congress" has been organised by the activists.

The Club became popular being the spokesmen of the german hacker scene which checked the integrity of data security and protection systems by more or less spectacular actions. Since 1986 the club has been a registered organisation, located in Hamburg. There is a network of activists who organise regular public meetings in different towns all over Germany, communicate with the press and in computer networks, and take part in congresses and discussions. In 1994 the Berlin office was established.


1. Evaluation of the Present Situation - Electronic Media, Access, Cost Structures, Problem Fields

2. Present Planning and Future Problems

3. Outlook and Visions for a Democratic Information Society - Necessary Measures and Claims


1. Evaluation of the Present Situation - Electronic Media, Access, Cost Structures, Problem Fields

- Telecommunication Infrastructure

Due to the privatization of the national phone companies, channels of communication have become economic goods despite their increasing social relevance and the fact, the access to networks has become important to live. There is no longer a right to have a telephone connection - this becomes more and more an econommic question. Whoever does not have a telephone is socially isolated and experiences disadvantages when, for example, looking for a job - he or she is practically expelled from the "information society".

- Handling the Means of Communication

For many people, such as students or unemployed people, using a computer as a tool to access electronic networks is only possible when using illegal copies of software, due to their financial situation. Unauthorised possession of copyrighted software is no longer a civil but a criminal matter because of an EU amendment. This means most private computer users are now criminals. Although, computer skills are of increasing importance on the labour market today. The new generation has now more difficulty in gaining technical experience.

- Data Protection and Informational Self-Determination

The increasing use of electronic data processing in companies, banks, institutions etc. causes the fact that people already leave considerable amounts of "electronic traces" in these computers today. Hardly anybody knows what is recorded about him and where. The legal basis to find this out is insufficient. The uncertainty about these data might inhibit people when looking after their rights (for instance the right of assembly). The data that is produced when using communication services can be abused to draw up personal profiles for target group advertising. The right of informational self-determination is an essential requirement for liberty in the information society. This includes a european right of inspection of records(1) to get a view over the data about oneself stored in public institutions. To guarantee the citizen of the european community a right of informational self-determinination, it's not only necessary to have a law saying something about this, there has to be a data-protection- authority having considerable possibilities to help the citizen - first off all the possibility to delete illegal records - against business and authorities, too. Offices in every country of the EU have to be there for helping the citizen of the country to get their right without paying money for this.

(1)like the american "freedom of information act"

2. Present Plannings and Future Problems

- If communication channels and information become economic goods, only those will be able to stay informed extensively who can afford the corresponding amount.

- Furthermore, the communication prices cause the danger of a society splitted into information producers and information consumers. This is additionally favoured by the general lack of access to technology and know-how and the low level of education concerning communication technology.

- The one-sided reception of information by electronic means of communication, for example the consumption of television, favours the forming of personal virtual realities, which are strongly limited perceptions of reality. Today, large parts of society are already living in personal virtual realities, in which community life is limited to consumption. Working at home via the network leads to severe social isolation and to a way of life that is a hindrance to social contacts.

- Disregarding data protection and questions of security in the conception of networks can have disastrous consequences. Only few experts can help if a problem occurs. Often the operators of telecommunication systems have no idea about what is really happening inside their systems, for example at the German Telekom. Uncrypted transmission of connections and accessibility and strorage of connection data are making abuse of all kinds possible. Communication systems that guarantee a confidentiality of participants' data are technically possible and economically justifiable(2). The introduction of such systems should take place before the next disaster occurs.

- To guarantee confidentiality for data transmitted over a network there has to be a freedom of cryptography. This is the only way to protect business-secrets and privacy.

(2) Info: "Datenschutz garantierende offene Kommunikationsnetze" A.Pfitzmann / Informatik-Spektrum (1988)11:118-142

3. Outlook and Visions for a Democratic Information Society - Necessary Measures and Claims

- A basic right of communiation, information and exchange of information is necessary. The possibility of being an information exponent in freely accessible electronic networks is a fundamental right of self-determination in the information society.

- Handling a PC as a communication tool must be part of the european education standard as well as reading, writing and speaking English are. As a supportive measure to the new generation the access to telephone and networks must be provided for experimental use to make a creative handling of the new technology possible. The lowest education standard must contain information research and distribution as well as using Electronic Mail.

- The already existing decentralized citizen-networks with democratic structures(3) should be recognized, supported and be a model for public network-structures.

- Public network centers have to be established. The possibility of offering information on the network, using the necessary technical equipment and access has to be provided to every citizen for free.

- Software that is used for non-commercial purposes must be usable for free; especially students and unemployed people need the possibility to aquire computer skills to have a chance on the labour market at all. The prosecution of copyrighted software matters should be dependent on how the software is used. Means of production may cost money - learning equipment must not.

- Public libraries have to widen their range and include electronic databases. To avoid an educational gap between computer owners and those who do not have access to the networks, a basic supply of electronic databases is necessary.

- A fundamental right of basic telecommunication supply is necessary. One connection including a telephone to receive calls and to make calls with a limited credit should at least be provided to everybody. The right to this basic supply must be part of the social security system.

- Telephone services like help lines must be reachable anonymously from the subscribers' lines. The security of the telephone-network has to grow with the need for data-protection.

(3) have a look at: CL (german spoken area), FermiNet (ex-Jugoslawia), GreenNet (GB), XS4ALL (NL)

3. Outlook and Visions for a Democratic Information Society - Necessary Measures and Claims

- A european right of inspection of records that reveals all data stored about oneself including a right to delete is necessary to reach a start towards an informational right of self-determination.

- Public institutions have to publish in general accessable networks, equal access for commercial and non-commercial network-provider. Possibility for cooperation and influence with answers, ideas and inputs for all citizen.

- Before there can be an "electronic democraticy" started, there has to be an democratic information society. First of all it must be shure, that all citizen have same possibilities to inform themselfes and take part on public life, before decision-procedures and govermental-votes can be made on networks.