David Kleidermacher, Google VP withdraws from virtual Black Hat 2020 hackers conference, wants them to change the name
The custodial killing of an African American, George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin of Minneapolis PD has sparked off intense campaign against maligning African Americans. Protestors and anti-racism activists say the usage of the English word Black maligns people of color. In English, anything negative is often denoted as Black, for e.g. Black List, Black Magic, Blackmail, etc.
But one would never have felt that this denotation could spill over into technical lexicons and naming and Black Hat conference is one of the casualties of this BLM protest. David Kleidermacher, Vice President of Google Android security and privacy has withdrawn from the virtual Black Hat 2020 hackers conference scheduled to be held from August 1st to 6th.
By doing this Kleidermacher has ignited a fierce debate in the tech and cybersecurity over linguistic labeling. Kleidermacher says that he has withdrawn from the conference due to the label and wants the organizers of the one of the oldest and longest-running hackers conference that it was time to change.
Black hat and white hat are terms that need to change. This has nothing to do with their original meaning, and it’s not about race alone – we also need sensible gender-neutral changes like PITM versus MITM. These changes remove harmful associations, promote inclusion and help us break down walls of unconscious bias. Not everyone agrees which terms to change, but I feel strongly our language needs to (this one in particular).
Supporters of Kleidermacher say he is right and Black Hat is a potentially discriminatory language. One of the supporters, a noted researcher Kevin Beaumont tweeted about his support.
Good. More speakers and attendees should drop Black Hat until they actively say they are changing name. https://t.co/EZKu89LyT7
— Kevin Beaumont (@GossiTheDog) July 4, 2020
However, not all agreed to Kleidermacher and Beaumont’s views. In fact, the majority of tech and security professionals disagreed with their opinion. Most of them said that the term itself is not derived from a notion of things that are “black” inherently being malign. However, Kleidermacher stood his ground.
I’ve decided to withdraw from speaking at Black Hat USA 2020. I’m deeply grateful for the offer to speak, and for the great work the conference has done over the years to protect users through transparency, education, and community building.
— David Kleidermacher (@DaveKSecure) July 3, 2020
Many in the industry labeled Kleidermacher’s withdrawal as “performative” and “virtue signaling.” However, the protest have had an effect on certain terminologies. Twitter has already announced a list of terminologies it is going to change in the future, while UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) updated terminology on its website, replacing “blacklist” and “whitelist” with “deny list” and “allow list.”
We settled on the following. It’s good but not exhaustive, and intentionally so. We've created a process around this list so anyone can propose changes. This isn't just about language choice in code. Our words matter in meetings, conversations, and the documents we write too. pic.twitter.com/7RYTPino2D
— Regynald (@negroprogrammer) July 2, 2020