Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Security Hardware

Laptop Destroyed Over Snowden Leaks Is Now an Art Exhibit 52

An anonymous reader sends word that a busted MacBook Air and a Western Digital hard drive that once held Snowden revelations are going on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. "The remains of computer hardware which had contained the Guardian's London trove of Snowden documents – and which was destroyed on the rather spiteful demands of GCHQ personnel – have gone on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. While the frankly unremarkable remnants of a MacBook Air are uninteresting in and of themselves – who among us has not taken an angle grinder to an errant machine? – the causes of the MacBook Air's destruction are seemingly interesting enough to merit those remnants being considered art and subsequently included in V&A's new exhibition about 'the museum as a public space and the role of public institutions in contemporary life.' Disconcertingly titled All of This Belongs to You, the exhibition is to include 'three specially curated displays,' among which is Ways to be Secret, which will examine what the curators describe as 'the contradiction between our concern for online privacy and our obsession with sharing via social media.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Laptop Destroyed Over Snowden Leaks Is Now an Art Exhibit

Comments Filter:
  • Doubtful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @05:54AM (#49396601) Homepage

    Even though data remanence is merely a widely-believed urban legend, who actually thinks that the GCHQ actually let that hard drive or laptop leave their grasp either at the point of contact/destruction or silently behind the scenes after the fact.

    • Re:Doubtful (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @07:36AM (#49396773)

      You seem to be saying that they ordered the guardian employees to destroy the laptops to keep the information secret, I think even they knew that destroying these few copies wouldn't really do anything to curtail its distribution. At the very least their actions were a act of spite against others airing their dirty laundry. They may also have been a threat, kind of like a mob goon keying your car or forcing you to steal under threat of injury/death. In either case leaving the laptop with their victims would help drive home their anger, in hindsight I'm sure they wished they had simply taken the laptops as the act has become less of a threat and more of a rallying cry.

      http://www.theguardian.com/wor... [theguardian.com]

      • Re:Doubtful (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday April 03, 2015 @08:51AM (#49396993)
        I recall this being a thing with law enforcement in England. I have read stories of police seizing people's computers for various investigation reasons and then returning them in ruined states, even when no charges are filed or the party is exonerated. So it could simply be part of the LEO culture there, destroying people's computers when they annoy you is just a socially accepted (within agencies) way to thumb their nose at citizens.
        • So it could simply be part of the LEO culture there, destroying people's computers when they annoy you is just a socially accepted (within agencies) way to thumb their nose at citizens.

          In the USA they just hold onto your equipment so long that it's obsolete by the time you get it back, plus you have to assume that they've installed malware while they've had it in their hot little hands, and reflash all your firmwares or just bin everything.

      • Destroying the laptop was not done to keep anything secret.

        But without the laptop and the data, the NSA can tell everyone what Snowden stole, and there is no way to prove otherwise except for the credibility and reputation of the parties involved. "Oops! Well, at least no one can get their hands on our nuclear launch codes now!" Their punishment of Snowden, if he were still in the USA, would be based on their evidence, and "OMG -- securing the state!" would be the prerequisite that you don't know what the e

      • by jaxn ( 112189 )

        They've come out and stated this was largely a symbolic act for publicity.


    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      They allowed Guardian employees to film the destruction on their mobile phones and release the footage. They were not even trying to keep it a secret, it was supposed to be a very public warning to journalists to stay away from the Snowden material.

  • This is an ART exhibit? It may be art, and it definitely belongs in a museum, but not because it's art.

    • it definitely belongs in a museum

      So do YOU!

      Sorry, I've been watching Indiana Jones movies the last few days. All three of them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have no objection to anything being art. And let's not forget that it was the art world itself which removed all requirements for anything being considered art.

      But we as viewers should by the same token question the absurd assumption of 'importance' that those in the art world consistently claim.

      The correct response is not: "Is this really art?"

      The correct response is in fact: "Who gives a shit?"

      The categorization of anything (and it can be anything) as "Art" in no way communicates importance. Nor does

    • It's useful as a tangible reminder of the bullying symbolism of the tech-(un)savvy GCHQ, and therefore, it's not an art. http://isitanart.com/ [isitanart.com]
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      It's "art" because your tax paid for ~4 years of somebody slacking off and now he had a thought that everybody else already had years ago.

      • And before that, your tax had paid for destruction of a private citizen's - oops, I mean "subject's" - computer out of sheer spite. The positive way of looking at this is that it creates work for people would be unemployable in the real economy.

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          Except that their employment costs more tax money than their unemployment benefits would.

    • Given that GCHQ's behaviour achieved nothing of objective value - the data was safely backed up elsewhere - I've always suspected this was a piece of performance art, and this appears to prove it. The only question is whether it was funded out of GCHQ's art budget, or the Arts Council...
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Indy, is that you? :P

  • modern journalism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sick of being fed what my feelings about something should be even before I'm presented with the facts. This isn't journalism, it's propaganda.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Then you should be delighted that "exhibit A" is now on public display. There's a fact for you.

  • Take your pick GCHQ:

    1) Either you're too stupid to realize that this data was backed up in about a million places by the time you destroyed it, or
    2) You're a bunch of spiteful dicks.

    • Why can't it be both?

      Though if I did have to choose given that it was GCHQ I would have to go with #2.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 03, 2015 @09:26AM (#49397163)

      Actually, none of the above. You must be either a naive small child or an adult simpleton. The purpose of making a show of destroying the laptop wasn't out of spite, just a show of power targeted to the one entity that until then thought was safe from the overbearing might of the State: the press. The message is clear: you're no longer safe. Your privileges have been revoked. You're not untouchable and you will do as we order. It was a symbolic gesture, not different from a nobleman forcing a commoner to lick his boots. The purpose is not to clean the boots, but to show who's the boss. The fact that the Guardian did not publish anything more regarding this afterwards should tell you that GCHQ was absolutely successful. They won, the press caved in. It had to surrender. The myth of the "free press" bringing down corrupt governments is dead, forever. Have you tested the limits of your "free speech" rights yet? You may have some unpleasant surprises.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann