Last weekend’s Discotech event in Cambridge was a very productive day for us. We shared our project amongst a fairly diverse group of people and people responded very well. There were a lot of conversations around COINTELPRO to situate the project historically as well as conversations about more recent cases of infiltrations such as the exploits and of FBI Informant Brandon Darby (Scott Crow, an activist who was very close to Brandon is one of our first stories in the Infiltrated project). The hands-on workshop, creating a comprehensive timeline a TimelineJS visualization of the COINTELPRO infiltrations, allowed us to connect with people interested in data visualizations, including faculty from the program of Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern University who are interested in grounding information design and visualization courses with projects that have a social dimension such as the SoMove: Infiltrated project.
Day 2 of the Discotech was really productive. My team met up for the first time in person and did a lot of brainstorming. We are currently working on refining 3 ideas around the bed quota issue to present to our project partners this Friday.
Our professor shared with us a really helpful strategy timeline for Transmedia Projects. This is something that we’re definitely considering at this stage into the design process. We’re also trying to schedule a meeting with Bex Hurwitz to try to get more feedback on our ideas.
At this discotech, we showed visitors http://fuerza.is: an interactive checklist to help a victim determine whether their various devices are infected and being used in their stalking. Then we discussed scenarios and potential solutions for stalking via digital communication tools. A visitor came up with the idea of collecting app fingerprints. Even if it is less likely to be delivered at the term end, it exemplify how existing product helps framing the problem.
Another workshop held in the DiscoTech was explaining encryption. Activities included showing how to fake an email on behalf of somebody else (via shell script), using GPGTools to sign emails, and using GPGTools and AESCrypt to encrypt files. The workshop also included trying to use RetroShare (a P2P communication tool encrypted under PGP), but it didn’t work out.
We also had some conversations with some of the guests on actions they would take if they noticed they were being digitally surveilled. What steps would they take. We also went through some of the source of data around abuse and which of those cases may have a digital surveillance component. Among conversations we had regarding possible tools, is a digital application fingerprinting software that could detect changes in applications or changes in the behavior of some of the applications and how that could be used to inform users of threats possible. The other application we brainstormed about was on an activity log, resident on the phone that tracks a users actions and phone operations. A technique akin to self surveillance which would then help one in curating and identifying suspicious behavior.
In the team meeting this week, we drafted three personas of users, in which we will pick one to work on. They are:
- their ages range from teenager through elders
- their technical skills vary.
- They work at shelter organizations, generally focusing on all aspects of abuse and victim safety. Their focus is not on technology.
- When they are working, they are assigned to clients when they seek for help. During the help, they try to gain information from the client including feeling and mental status. Establishing the victim’s trust may take a long time.
- They need to assess the dangerousness of the victim’s situation quickly, in order to determine the best course of action for the victim.
- They are possibly stalked by someone they know.
- The stalker generally is an intimate partner, co-worker, or a fellow student. They use technology in stalking as a way to exert control.
- A victim could be male or female – though females are more likely to seek help.
- The victim generally has little technology understanding. The stalker surveilling them only has to be more technology aware than the victim.
- They need to figure out what’s happening – build a picture of what’s happening.
- They are not sure about when it started and how often it is happening. Information on anything they feel threatening can be helpful to alleviate their suffering.
- They are any third party to the stalker and victim.
- Friends or family members of the victim could be the most helpful.
- The victim generally only hints at the surveillance to friends or family as a quiet plea for help.
- Once aware of the problem, a bystander is in the best position to get involved and do something to support the victim.
- One thing they can do is tell the victim’s situation to somebody in authority – See something, say something.
The DiscoTech was a huge success for us and gave us the opportunity to share with others information on cell phone surveillance. The DiscoTech allowed us to speak with people in a variety of settings, from meet and greets to hands on workshops. Through this, we were able to speak about the problem we’re trying to solve (IMSI-catcher detection) in a variety of ways. There was a huge disparity in how much people know and this allowed us to field questions ranging from how IMSI-catchers work, to what protocol they’re able to spoof. Throughout the day, we talked with people and learned a lot about what people know and got a lot of great feedback on our project idea.
The hands-on workshop we offered was “Locate your cell tower”. We used this time to show people how they could look at some advanced diagnostic menus on their phones (menus generally hidden and accessible through special key codes). This allowed the audience to see and compare which cell towers they were connected to. We took this information and compared it to some databases of cell towers to identify the location of the cell towers that they were actually connected to, seen in Figure 1 below. Additionally, we used the time to explain the theory of how we can use this knowledge to detect possible IMSI interference. A lot of questions came up and we had amazing conversations on topics such as cell tower databases, protocols, and areas of concern.
Figure 1: Example cell tower location of one of the attendees
Overall we had a great experience participating in the DiscoTech. We learned a lot from the attendees and got some great feedback on our project. Additionally we opened peoples eyes to a real problem and the reception was great. People enjoyed seeing how they can utilize their phone and get more information for themselves and they were interested to hear more about how IMSI-catchers are being used.
This past weekend’s DiscoTech was an amazing event at which we had the opportunity to meet an incredibly interesting and diverse group of people. For our project specific workshop, Team CURE came to the DiscoTech armed with a questionnaire and statistics that we hoped would both stir conversation and help us develop a more accurate end user profile. We are hoping to develop an online awareness platform for CURE’s sex offender advocacy work (read more about it here!). Because the topic is potentially controversial, we thought that developing a firm understanding of prospective user initial assumptions/value systems would be particularly useful. We expected that the answers would shed some light on possible perspectives and, in turn, inform the crafting of our project. Although we started with the questionnaire, our workshop participants were much more interested in the discussion that our introduction presentations and questions spurred. We were surprised that many of our visitors had deeply personal stories to tell about how their lives have been affected by the sex offender registry and/or associated legal processes. Although we didn’t get as much data as expected, we had a very rich discussion about the complexity of the US detention system, rehabilitation, and sex offender rights. As we continue to develop the project, we are becoming more and more aware of how important it is that we are sensitive to language and the significance of a positive framework.
Earlier this week we also had quite a bit of fun with our partners at CURE crafting and choosing user personas. The user personas, like the DiscoTech activity, are meant to help us hone into the profiles of our end users – so that we will have a ficticious but very discerning audience to guide some of our design decisions. The group settled on two different/similar end users:
- 25 yr. old, recent college graduate
- Unaware of and uninformed about issues surrounding the Sex Offender Registry
- Has heard of potential risks of dating a minor during high school/through his college fraternity
- Checks Internet news, Email, Facebook at least once a day
- Interested in social issues, but hasn’t taken any actions
- 27 yr. old, working at an NGO
- Generally aware of social justice issues but not about the sexual offenders’ registry specifically
- Relatively active online: Twitter, Blog, FB, Email
- Previously participated in student government while in college
- Enjoys participating in demos and other events
- Has influence in her friend circle (well respected by her friends and peers)
Here’s to hoping that Daniel and Amelia are pleased with our future product! Until next time, some food for thought:
Daniel: The discotech was an interesting experience for learning about surveillance and counter surveillance activism. Through talking with the numerous attendees there, I came out with a fresh perspective on how to approach social issues and think about these problems, such as surveillance, with a more critical and analytical mindset. I thought it was also interesting to see numerous artists who were there, also accomplished with their various social projects they are currently undertaking. During the hands on workshop, I especially found the analytical workshop for threatmodeling and the facepainting very informative. The face painting demo demonstrated the far reaches of technology, and how advanced facial recognition technology currently is. I believe the experience I gained at the DiscoTech will definitely allow me to be more aware of surveillance issues in the future.
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The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Our project could potentially focus on the Detention Watch Network’s current campaign to end the bed quota.
The reality that exists is that the immigration detention bed quota requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold a minimum of 34,000 immigrants at any given time. Having a quota on how many people must be locked up every day is an issue that indirectly affects everyone. Chrislene, Sean, and I met last Wednesday 2/19 via a google hangout with Silky and Carly from the Detention Watch Network to brainstorm ideas.
A question that came up during our conversation is what would the world look like without detention centers. During the upcoming Discotech this weekend, we hope to address this question and explore the possibilities. We will be meeting with our project partners on Friday 2/28 to finalize what will be covered during the workshop portion.
So far we’ve been researching relevant projects and other inspiring works and started a list:
For more information about the end the bed quota campaign, please visit: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/EndTheQuotaNarrative
SoMove is network of independent oral historians, multimedia producers, journalists, storytellers, artists and activists working together to collect digital oral histories, share resources and some content with each other, and tour to present their work.
SoMove works with activists and community groups to document ways people creatively change their lives, neighborhoods and the world. Such stories push back against and reframe conventional ideas and oppressive narratives that derive from colonialism and are used to justify inequality.
Infiltrated, our project, is an ambitious multimedia project and online searchable database that tells the national story of government infiltration and surveillance of activist groups and communities targeted by the state since 2001. To do that we’ll be collecting and compiling government records (using the Freedom of Information Act) as well as first-person accounts. The challenge is to to build the multimedia platform, a hub/clearing house to share these stories. At launch there will be possibly two accounts of infiltration of activist groups each one with audio and their corresponding FOIA file —this will be the initial cohort to base the platform design around. Another goal is to have the platform be self-sustainable and also scalable as more stories and documentation are added to the website.
We had a preliminary discussion on methodology of design. Based on the information we have from our conversation with Puck, the team will produce a series of wireframes to iterate and discuss on the next meeting. It is possible that this exercise can be conducted at the Discotech event.