Q&A With Leonardo Maccari

by Noah Simon | September 4, 2014

(Screenshot of Riseapp.org)

(Screenshot of Riseapp.org)

Leonardo Maccari is an activist and strong advocate of open-source, network neutrality, and community networks. Currently, Maccari is designing “RiseApp”- a mobile application that would allow activists to share and disseminate content in order to document government repression during demonstrations. The content would be shared using the Tor Browser, widely regarded as a highly secure tool for anonymous browsing, and direct mobile-to-mobile communications.

Maccari is a computer scientist residing in Italy who holds a Ph.D. in wireless network security.

1. What inspired you to create this application? How did you come up with the idea?

I’m a researcher and my field of activity is wireless distributed networks. I’m also an activist of an Italian wireless community network (ninux.org). Mixing these two things, I had the idea of designing an application that can help people that are carrying out a protest by using cryptography and direct wireless communications.

The CHEST Project (www.chest-project.eu)-  which aims to enable entrepreneurs to address key issues through social innoviation- gave me a chance to focus on the application. Right now I have passed the first phase of the CHEST challenge, which will give me a greater chance of receiving funds to fully develop the application.

2. In addition to using this application, what are some ways in which activists can successfully document government repression?

I think they have to use their own infrastructure for communicating in order to protect their privacy as much as possible, and then try to broadcast their messages on public social networks. But the first priority should be to protect their safety and independence.

3. Do you believe that some governments with powerful cyber capabilities will be able to compromise this application in some way? Will governments be able to monitor the use of the app as they monitor social networks?

Any technology, with enough resources can be hacked. The idea behind this app is to use TOR. TOR is the only network that so far has resisted any large-scale attempt to break its security. Direct wireless communications are intrinsically decentralized and harder to intercept than communication over the Internet.

4. Do you expect any legal obstacles in trying to provide the app?

This is a good question, but I don’t have a specific answer since the application would be designed to be used in many different contexts, with different legal schemes. For instance, I do not know any law that forbids the use of TOR in any European country, but it may well be that TOR is forbidden in some other places.

5.  Is there any other information you would like to provide?

I hope this application will be completed, that is, I will succeed in the second run of funding.

More information about the project for RiseApp can be found here.