Update 3, UYC group

This week, our team worked on drafting the working agreement [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e92TMK0CX5DmswujRw90JX6M8_97xmmpjXFL5W-FtlE/edit?usp=sharing]. Our team met up on Friday to begin the draft work on the agreement, but we still have to hear back from our collaborators at UYC in response to our messages sent during the past few days. Although the communication has gotten slightly better, we still have trouble reaching our partners. Our planned meeting this week is at Tuesday 5pm, in which we hope to get some feedback on our user stories and also some input on the working agreement. We will continuously work on the working agreement through this week.

Posted in UYC

EFF: Project Update #3

For this week, we worked on solidifying our personae (user stories) and Working Agreement. At the moment, the SSD is intended for journalists and activists – people who need solid information on the logistics of how to protect their data/information. Some of the other personae are people who might need more basic information, such as the average college student, or a community organizer.

We also started to talk about the “fun” aspects of the site to engage people who are not as proactive about properly protecting their digital assets – we (and a lot of our friends) are really into Buzzfeed quizzes (like this one), so we were thinking something along the lines of that. We might also be developing an actual workshop module for the Threat Model workshop, but we’ll see.

We’ll be meeting with Eva (Jillian’s out) – and this week, Bex as well – on Wednesday, right before class, so we’ll definitely have more concrete ideas of how we’ll be moving forward by then.

- Paulina & Wei-Wei

Posted in EFF

Some food for thought

I subscribe to a daily news email from Quartz, and the intro from a couple of days ago felt particularly pertinent to our class. Enjoy!

“Russian troops take over Crimea! Rubbish, said Vladimir Putin: “Local self-defense forces.” Bitcoin’s inventor, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, is really a man called Satoshi Nakamoto! Nonsense, said the real Nakamoto; he’d never before heard of “bitcom.” The man behind spoof Twitter gossip account @GSElevator never worked for Goldman Sachs! Yet in fact, his true identity was hiding in plain sight for months.

It seems that even in our hyper-surveilled and sharing-obsessed world, identity remains a fraught and nebulous thing. Putin used the confusion over what was really happening in Crimea to the fullest to steal a march on the West. The Nakamoto unmasked in Los Angeles might be telling the truth—online, an account linked more or less definitively with the bitcoin creator piped up to say he wasn’t that Nakamoto—or it might all be a ruse to keep himself out of the spotlight. And @GSElevator’s book deal mysteriously evaporated after he was outed.

Identities are increasingly central to the internet economy, since whoever manages your online identity for you manages your data, and thus acts as your broker for a growing number of services. Identifying and profiling online users could soon be an industry worth tens of billions of dollars.

Some think that means that, as people’s online identities fill out with real data about them, anonymity will gradually vanish. But as all three of the above cases show, there’s always demand for fake, fudged or invented identities. And where there’s demand, there’ll be another industry around it.”

Posted in UYC

SoMove — Project Update #2. Discotech.

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.

Discotech + DWN Team Update



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.

Team Tor: DiscoTech and update

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:


  1.  Advocates
    1. their ages range from teenager through elders
    2. their technical skills vary.
    3. They work at shelter organizations, generally focusing on all aspects of abuse and victim safety. Their focus is not on technology.
    4. 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.
    5. They need to assess the dangerousness of the victim’s situation quickly, in order to determine the best course of action for the victim.
  2. Victims
    1. They are possibly stalked by someone they know.
    2. The stalker generally is an intimate partner, co-worker, or a fellow student. They use technology in stalking as a way to exert control.
    3. A victim could be male or female – though females are more likely to seek help.
    4. The victim generally has little technology understanding. The stalker surveilling them only has to be more technology aware than the victim.
    5. They need to figure out what’s happening – build a picture of what’s happening.
    6. 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.
  3. By-standers
    1. They are any third party to the stalker and victim.
    2. Friends or family members of the victim could be the most helpful.
    3. The victim generally only hints at the surveillance to friends or family as a quiet plea for help.
    4. Once aware of the problem, a bystander is in the best position to get involved and do something to support the victim.
    5. One thing they can do is tell the victim’s situation to somebody in authority – See something, say something.


ACLU + Guardian at the DiscoTech

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.


Team CURE: DiscoTech and Progress!

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:

Daniel Young

  • 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

Amelia Smith

  • 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:


UYC @ the DiscoTech!

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.

Our workshop differed slightly from our original goals, in that it switched to more of a group discussion rather than a scenario hands-on activity. However, the information we gained was also incredibly valuable. We need to find out who exactly is the target audience of the UYC, in order to better understand how to frame our project. Ultimately, we should aim to capture both sides of the story in the schools in order to better allow student stories’ to be told.

Nushelle: I especially enjoyed Saul Tannenbaum‘s short talk on the surveillance of MIT – it really brought home the face that surveillance is a lot closer than you think, and that often the reasons why you might be under surveillance are out of your control, and may sometimes have much more to do with chance connections.

I also found the face-painting workshop to be surprisingly educational (in addition, of course, to being a lot of fun!). I admit that while I was excited about the face-painting, I wasn’t sure it would ‘work’. I think the beauty of it was that although we came in without a lot of knowledge as to how to get it done, we had such enthusiastic volunteers (Elizabeth H Cho offered her face to be experimented on first, and Bilal suggested we use Open CV to check our success rate) that the workshop grew organically. We realised that it wasn’t about the binary of whether one fooled the camera or not, but rather about the extent to which we could reduce the camera’s ability to detect a face. Elizabeth managed to fool the camera almost entirely, and we found that unusual hairstyles or accessories like scarves helped as well.

Apart from the great discussion we had about our project, Sasha also suggested that we work with UYC to create user stories to help us narrow down who are target audience is going to be, as nailing this down early will ensure we’re all on the same page, and will influence the content, form, aesthetics, and style of the final product. Basically, it’s a sentence of who (student/parent/teacher/local councillor/etc), what (what do they want to do) and why (why do they want to use the product?). Creating several of these stories, and then picking one, or at least ranking the order of importance of these users, helps clarify who we envision benefiting from the product.

E.g. As a studentI want to record my side of the story so that I can change how we are perceived.

We hope to discuss possible user stories with Maria tomorrow.

Elizabeth: I found this DiscoTech to be a great experience to learn and interact with people. A student from a small liberal arts college, I am more accustomed to discussing and learning with people my age with a single professor or lecturer present, so it was quite a new but exciting experience for me to engage in discussions and hands-on activities with people who are already in fields I might be interested in.

To begin, during our short talks our group immediately had a couple of responses from others on punitive practices in schools. One attendee suggested we look into the history of juvenile discipline, while another suggested we compare the ways in which student safety is executed in suburban schools as opposed to urban schools. I then participated, or rather listened in, on the “Surveillance and Public Art” DIY talk. People discussed some of their projects and ideas, like USB drops and surveillance camera- recorded plays. I find public art to be such a strong platform to generate consciousness on surveillance, and I hope to hear and even participate more with it.

As Nushelle mentioned, our anti-face recognition was an unexpected hit. It was fun to discuss surveillance and face recognition software through an activity as simple as face-painting, we even got to talk and facepaint with a young girl (her mom also commented how nice it was to see lots of “girls” at the event!) Finally, we talked to Terry of Intelligent Mischief about storytelling methods, which I found very useful. I’m excited to use what we learned in our project.





Posted in UYC