IN THE LOOP | September 2012
TACTICAL TECH'S IN THE LOOP
In the Loop is our monthly experimental – not really a – newsletter which features highlights from our Twitter feeds and updates on what we've been up to at Tactical Tech.
THE BACK ROOM AT TACTICAL TECH
Some new releases and updates for September.
10 TACTICS UNSTITCHED NOW IN ARABIC
A repository of information-activism campaign examples for inspiration and training curriculum building, now translated into Arabic with inspiring new material from the Arab world.
INTERESTED IN DOWNSIZING YOUR DIGITAL SHADOW? NEW IDEAS, TIPS AND TOOLS ON MYSHADOW.ORG
What Are Digital Shadows and Why Do They Matter?
"Your data for our free services" has become the maxim of most digital services and tools we use today. How risky is this for activists doing work others in power might not want them to do? How do we resist and challenge this fast-growing 'data norm'? Some ideas and insights.
Your Digital Shadow: Being Present, but Safe
One online password and username across multiple accounts makes your life easier. And the job of anyone who wants to hack your account. Find out how to change this and test the strength of your passwords in the Password Meter.
How Secure is Your Twitter Account?
Millions of tweets are generated every day, who cares about yours? Your tweets could be telling more than you think - about your activities, location and movements. Even protected Twitter accounts can expose you when data from Twitter is shared with other social networking tools like Youtube, Google+ and the FourSquare check-in service.
Trace My Shadow – new and improved!
Our tech team have improved the interface to our interactive 'Trace My Shadow' tool, making it even easier to figure out what data is being shared and stored when you use your mobile phone, shop online or use social networking sites.
Instagram fan? Read the small print!
In the 'Lost in Small Print' section we look at the End User License Agreements we click "I agree" to when signing up for a new service. Visualisations reveal what we are really agreeing to. For example, the popular photo service Instagram collects potentially personally-identifying information like Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for logged in users and for users leaving comments.
Pack your toolbox
In the shadow tracer's kit we present all kinds of tools you can use to explore your traces, resize (change) them and find out how easy it is for others to find out about yours. In recent weeks we've added many new tools including Ghostery, Please don't stalk me, Adblock Plus, Click&Clean, NoScript and the Tor Browser Bundle.
THE OPEN KNOWLEDGE FESTIVAL
Tactical Tech recently attended the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki – a mix of lectures, workshops and hackathons around the theme of Open Knowledge in Action. Tactical Tech staff gave a presentation as part of the Data Journalism and Visualisation stream in the Practical Tools for Visualisation session (watch it here from 30:00 min). Maya Ganesh presented the Sex Workers Voices Project and Emma Prest demonstrated some of the practical ways we are trying to demystify data visualisation. Tactical Tech's Head of Technology, Kaustubh Srikanth, led participants out onto the rainy streets of Helsinki for the OpenStreetMap hackathon, teaching them how to collect data, map it and upload it onto OpenStreetMap.Our work on the land matrix was also presented by the Land Coalition. Watch it here.
In other sessions, 800 open knowledge enthusiasts discussed how to make open data more relevant to ordinary people's lives. While the energy and enthusiasm was laudable, we think there is a need to think critically about where data comes from and how best to use it within a specific political context. Is it enough to wrangle data without knowing what its broader uses may be? What happens when you've been collecting data on government corruption for 8 years but don't know what to do with it? Open data, open kn owledge and open government are heady buzz words, but we were confronted with the reality of working in areas of the world where governments feel little compulsion to make the processes of governance or policy making transparent. How do you work on open data when government agencies have tight control of antiquated systems to collect information? What happens when data is absent, missing or simply not credible?
Data visualisation is not simply about throwing a dataset into a visualisation tool to produce a showy infographic. Activists and advocates are increasingly facing the challenge of having to address issues of statistical validity and reliability or methodological rigour in how they access and aggregate data. We see challenges with the use of data visualisation tools – too o ften they are simply attractive images which fail to engage audiences fully with the issues and data presented. We'll be covering these issues in greater depth in an chapter on 'The troubled lives of data' in our Data and Design Guide to be released later this year.
INFO-ACTIVISM CAMP 2013 UPDATE
We are currentl y scouting locations (from remote islands to tea plantations) for our Info-Activism Camp in 2013. We have also finalised dates for the prep retreat (12 - 16 December) to design the content for the main event. Applications for the 2013 camp open in the third week of October.
EXPOSING THE RIDICULOUS AT SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK
Tactical Tech staff gave a new presentation titled, “Exposing the Ridiculous : Using Humour in Politics and Activism,” at Social Media Week in Berlin, on 27th September. The presentation showed how information activists, campaigners and artists use humour, satire and parody to challenge the State and prevailing ideas of national identity and culture.
ARS ELECTRONICA 2012
For the first few days of September, Tactical Tech was in Linz, Austria for this year's Ars Electronica 2012 Festival -- a "festival for art, technology and society". The title of this year's event was The Big Picture: New Concepts for a New World. We saw a lot there that we liked! Here are some of our picks of the things we found interesting:
Password Hacker Station
The Faceless Project -- interrogating the culture of surveillance *
Newstweek -- a device for manipulating news being read by other people at wireless hotspots
Data Dealer -- making big money on data (in German)
Face to Facebook – a social experiment involving stealing facebook profiles, filtering them with face-recognition software, and posting them on a custom-made dating website
SADproject.tv -- Surveillance Awareness Database Project
And from the festival prize winners:
Kubatana.net – an online comunity for Zimbabwean activists
Syrian People Know Their Way -- a community of young Syrian digital artists, designers, bloggers and activists
Safecast – a US-based project focussing on outreach efforts in Japan:
iHub – an innovative digital community base
d in Kenya
http://prix2012.aec.at/prixwinner/7444/ " target="_blank">Free Universal Construction Kit – enabling children to extend their existing toys beyond their normal limitations
Energy parasites – a project focusing on energy use and re-use.
Children's toy construction kit (Image from F.A.T)
And now, on to the usual roundup of this month's tweets:
CRASHING THE TAX INSPECTOR'S PARTY
Earlier this month, Adam Ramsey and a few friends gatecrashed a black-tie event held for the now-retired head of Britain's tax office, David Hartnett. The video of it went viral. Ramsey explains why he did it.
(and you can watch the video on Youtube here)
GUIDES AND KITS: WHISTLEBLOWING AND FREE SPEECH
(image from FDL)
Have something to share but not sure if it's safe to share it? Read this guide on how to contribute to Cryptome (Wikileaks-like repository focused on freedom of speech, cryptography, spying, and surveillance) safely, without compromising your anonymity. Also relevant:
EXPOSING WEBS OF INFLUENCE IN CHILE
In Chile, where power is concentrated in the hands of the few, an innovative data journalism project looks poised to reveal links among members of the country’s elite.
(Image from Colossal)
In Russia, citizens have used clever street art to shame politicians into fixing roads.
LEBANON: RESPONSES TO CENSORSHIP
"Mamnou3!" ("Prohibited") is a mockumentary-style web series tackling censorship in Lebanon
The Virtual Museum of Censorship records the films, books and websites censored in Lebanon since the 1940s.
"KNOW EVERYONE": NONVIOLENT PROTEST
"Know your allies, your opponents and everyone in between" - tactical thinking for activists by George Lakey
The Global Nonviolent Database, provides "free access to information about hundreds of cases of nonviolent action for learning and for citizen action".
I SPY, YOU SPY....
What can happen when technology is used outside the context it was developed in? A lot of dodgy government spying, reports the New York Times
In other government spying news, the US government has been found to have sponsored yet another digital spying operation, using malware with links to the notorious Stuxnet. The target? Once again, the Middle East.
Looking back at Cryptocat encryption software; from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), What We Learned.
POWER STRUGGLES: GOOGLE IN GERMANY
Google has now officially opened an office in Berlin. "But the company has long been active in the German capital in its bid to influence government Internet policy," says German newspaper Der Spiegel.
IS GERMANY ALLOWED TO SPY?
The German government is planning to develop its own spyware. But doesn't that go against its own constitution? asks Slate magazine.
JOURNALISTS HACKED IN VENEZUELA
Prominent journalists and opinion leaders in Venezuela had their Twitter accounts hacked, "in many cases by a mysterious pro-government group called N33," reports the Committee to Protect Journalists.
TECHNOLOGY IN AFRICA
Mark Kaigwa muses on How technology in Africa is "transforming the globe?"
According to the Guardian, the technological revolution in Africa is being driven by mobile phones.
And TwoCircles.net reports that in Sierra Leone, Indian government money is helping to boost technology development.
But there are special reasons for concern on the continent.... Read "35 Reasons to Worry About Privacy in Africa".
Stop motion animation has spawned some remarkable videos. Here is creatorsproject.com's curation of the "eight most incredible stop motion animation music videos of the past decade.
ALTERNATIVE SOCIAL NETWORKS
(Image from Berliner Gazette)
There's just no escaping Facebook. Or is there? The 'digital backyards' conference in Berlin will be exploring some European alternatives.
A "social network for the civic self"? Good Magazine has re-invented itself into just that.