Jan 112012

A word about “hacking.” Hacking is a word often colloquially misused to describe the unauthorized access of a computer system. Among self-described hackers, however, the correct term to describe such behavior is “cracking,” as in “safe cracking.” “Hacking” instead describes a far more neutral, or even beneficial activity: the creative problem solving involved in engineering a solution. (Links point to Eric Raymond’s Jargon File.)

It would greatly assist policy discussion to keep these terms clear, particularly given the interest in criminalizing the unauthorized access of computer systems. Associating the activities of hacking with the more pejorative definition loses nuance and tends to lead to the criminalization of more benign, even objectively good, technology uses.

Thus this site will endeavor to use the correct term as much as possible. But when citing other media it may necessarily parrot whatever word was used, however incorrectly.

Edit 2/20/13: I’ve realized I’m shouting into the wind on this issue. “Hacking” is too colloquially accepted to describe all sorts of innovative applications of technology, good and bad, to ever completely avoid. But I will remind others that the term does indeed describe both good uses and bad uses and should not be presumed to be a pejorative.

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(pseudonyms ok)