Apathy and Arsenic: a Victorian Era lesson on fighting the surveillance state

A1 | Fri 25 Jan | 2:25 p.m.–3:10 p.m.

Presented by

  • Lilly Ryan

    Lilly Ryan is a pen tester, Python wrangler, and recovering historian from Melbourne. She writes and speaks internationally about ethical software, social identities after death, teamwork, and the telegraph. More recently she has researched the domestic use of arsenic in Victorian England, attempted urban camouflage, reverse engineered APIs, wielded the Oxford comma, and baked a really good lemon shortbread. Lilly is the 2018-19 Program Chair for PyCon AU and is regularly bossed around by two greyhounds.


What does expensive Victorian era wallpaper have in common with a Cambridge Analytica Facebook quiz? Why is the GDPR like a trip to a seaside resort? How could a cryptoparty have anything to do with a rare book in a library in Michigan? Lilly Ryan - historian, privacy advocate, and penetration tester - walks you through a two hundred year old method for fighting the surveillance state, based on the advocacy led by 19th century scientists to abolish the domestic use of arsenic. You will learn about the tireless efforts used by anti-arsenic activists to change the public perception of arsenic, Cory Doctorow's theory of Peak Indifference, the lives ruined by data breaches, and how to sustain the recent public shift from "I have nothing to hide" to "I value my privacy". This session will offer tips for developers, security professionals, and other interested folks on how to help everyday people have more power over their own information and how to sustain hope for the future when we've been aware of the solutions for years. Come along and take in stories of murder, mismanagement, and mendacity, and learn how to keep up the fight against mass surveillance now that the tide is turning. Linux Australia: http://mirror.linux.org.au/pub/linux.conf.au/2019/a1/Friday/Apathy_and_Arsenic_a_Victorian_Era_lesson_on_fighting_the_surveillance_state.webm YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egi8Lm5W3FY