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: : s t u d e n t p ro f i l e

jeremy zerechak Hometown

Scranton, Pennsylvania P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N


Creative development and diversification DE G REE P URSUED

Master's degree in film fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Steve Ross

F u t u r e pl a n s

New York City


(Right) Zerechak recreates the historical 1957 CBS Sputnik Special Report with anchor Douglas Edwards (actor Mark Tierno) for CODE 2600. The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments, and marked the start of the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.

his military contract was up, however, the inquiries didn’t go far. Land of Confusion went on to win a number of awards, including a special jury award for “bold truth in documentary filmmaking” at the Florida Film Festival. It was at a Los Angeles festival screening when Zerechak heard the call of his second film. He met a patron who had worked as an intrusion protection specialist for the Federal Reserve. After picking the man’s brain over the course of the festival, Zerechak returned to Pittsburgh “almost convinced” he had found a new project: detailing the intricacies of privacy and security in the age of information technology. In his preliminary research, he uncovered an expansive story that was largely untold in the mainstream media. And when the media did touch on it, Zerechak says, it was subject to gross inaccuracies and hyperbole. “I thought: This is going to be my next project. It’s timely, pertinent, and has a rich history,” he says. He likens the process of committing to a project idea to buying a used car—it involves taking a big risk when “there could be all sorts of problems under the hood.” The average time it takes to produce a documentary film from development to end, he notes, is two and a half to three years. “It’s a little unnerving, but it’s also bliss,

because you finally decide that this is my new project, my baby, my monster—whatever you want to call it—this is what I am going to immerse myself in intellectually, creatively, and from an investigative standpoint for the next three years.” Zerechak’s new “baby” was given a thoughtful name: Code 2600, which he chose for the 2600 megahertz tone discovered to be the key for hacking into the monopolistic “Ma Bell” telephone company’s network in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. As a result, the number 2600 has become something of a centerpiece in hacker culture. Code 2600 strives to tell the story of privacy and security in the information age and to make people aware of how they fit into that story. “People think that we’re the customers of internet services like Gmail, but we’re not. Gmail isn’t free because the company likes you. We are their product,” he says. According to Zerechak’s research, Google saves every search ever done on its engine, builds a profile based on an IP address, and sells it to advertisers for psychographic analysis—oftentimes without the informed consent of the user. He also draws attention to the vast amounts of data stored on servers, often referred to as “data pollution.” They are connected to the grid, accessible, and not going anywhere. “It is actually more expensive for companies to go through their servers and delete information than it is to just let it hang out,” Zerechak says. He likens this information pollution to the environmental pollution of the industrial age. “In the same way that we look back on our grandparents and ask them how they couldn’t have paid closer attention and given more consideration to the environment, our grandkids might look back on us and say, ‘How could you just let all of this data just float around?’” he asks. The film draws upon the wisdom of “heavyhitters” in the information technology (IT) field, including Bruce Schneier, one of the most well-known and respected technologists in the hacker security community, and Jeff Moss, founder of DEFCON and the Black Hat Conference, two of the largest hacker conventions in the world. Moss currently sits on the Homeland Security advisory board for IT security. Despite the concerns it raises, the film also acknowledges the positive, measurable changes in the world that Twitter and Facebook

Perspectives 2013 graduate edition  

Ohio University Perspectives magazine graduate student special edition 2013

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