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Dutch hacker love-in faces the chop

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A distinguished hackers' gathering scheduled to take place in July faces a ban by the local municipality. The mayor of Boxtel, in the Netherlands, cites "fear of breaches of law and order and danger to public safety". The organisers of What the Hack have been told they now need a permit for the event to happen.

Organiser Rop Gonggrijp, co-founder of the first ever Dutch Internet provider XS4ALL and former editor-in-chief of the 1980's hacker magazine Hack-Tic, assumes it is a misunderstanding: "The mayor seems to have a somewhat odd perception of what we, hackers, are going to do there. Yes, we think it's important that bad computer security is exposed. But computer break-ins are only a side issue for us. We are talking about grown-up hackers: The participants have been working in the computer security industry for many years." Gonggrijp said that the event has not resulted in any incidents in the past.

What the Hack usually draws 3,000 participants from all over the world. It has been running for 16 years. In 1997, visitors at the event used a legal loophole to distribute an exported copy of the PGP encryption program, forcing the US government to change its policies regarding the export of strong encryption algorithms.

This year's bash - if it happens - will feature lectures on the fight against software patents in Europe, discussions on how to use wireless technologies in developing countries, and presentations about biometric identification. ®

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