CryptoRave, perhaps the largest conference on cryptology and Internet privacy in Latin America, kicked off Friday in São Paulo, Brazil. Several thousand people, including young programmers, activists, hackers and self-described “cyberpunks” of all types are expected to attend the 24-hour marathon of  workshops, trainings, lectures, roundtables and, yes, some parties, all dedicated to cryptology, or the practice of using encoded digital communication to stop unwanted snooping.

But much has changed since the crypto movement took off in Brazil and Latin America two years ago. Activists are still concerned with the kind of US surveillance Snowden’s leaks revealed, but increasingly, they’re also asking questions about issues closer to home.


Deep Lab: The Female Hacker Collective Making Art About the Post-Snowden Age

Deep Lab is a congress of cyberfeminist researchers, organized by STUDIO Fellow Addie Wagenknecht to examine how the themes of privacy, security, surveillance, anonymity, and large-scale data aggregation are problematized in the arts, culture and society.

Here’s a free download of The Deep Lab book, a 242-page collection of essays, fragments, and reflections on everything from encryption to cyberfeminism penned by a dozen different authors with divergent interests.

Baltimore Police Spying On Cellphones And Hiding It

(by Casey Harper)

A detective’s court testimony Monday revealed that Baltimore law enforcement is spying on residents at an incredible rate without a warrant — and doing their best to hide it.

Detective Michael Dressel testified that Baltimore law enforcement have used “sting rays”–devices that can track personal cell phone data and location–without court orders, The Baltimore Sun reports. Police said they have used sting rays more than 4,300 times since 2007.

Local police departments obtain these devices from federal agencies but only on the condition that they keep the entire project entirely hidden from the public. In fact, police often drop charges or offer plea bargains in cases related to sting rays when pressured by defense lawyers or judges to reveal how they work.

In one Florida case, prosecutors who had what seemed an open and shut robbery case offered the defendant a plea bargain when pressured on police’s use of sting rays.

SN: I cannot help but wonder how many of these “sting ray” devices are secretly deployed in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Full DailyCaller article here

Employers should not be allowed to be exempt from medical privacy laws, the laws against genetic discrimination or the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to force their employees to provide them with private medical information about themselves and their families.  The only way to keep your medical information private is to pay a fine of up to $4000, which means these programs are not voluntary if you can’t afford it. The bill targets poor people.  Are Americans just supposed to trust our employers with sensitive medical information, when this law removes the protections we have against discrimination at work?  This bill is before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions- a committee you are all a part of. I ask that the committee not let this bill pass to the full Senate. I would ask Senator Alexander to withdraw his bill. 

This is a pretty terrifying bill that would allow for workplace wellness programs to be except from the ADA and other laws that protect people from disclosing personal medical information to their employers. Please sign / share and write your representatives.

You can use to find contact information for your representatives and more information about the bill.

You can’t just slap cameras on police officers and think you’re done.
—  Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Watch his interview on Democracy Now! today.

RAM House: Does your home have an airplane mode?

Space Caviar & PROKOSS ask: “Does your home have an airplane mode for complete electromagnetic privacy?”

RAM House is a domestic prototype that explores the home’s response to a new definition of privacy in the age of sentient appliances and signal based communication. As the space of the home becomes saturated by “smart” devices capable of monitoring their surroundings, the role of the domestic envelope as a shield from an external gaze becomes irrelevant: it is the home itself that is observing us. The RAM House responds to this near-future scenario by proposing a space of selective electromagnetic autonomy. Wi-Fi, cellphone and other radio signals are filtered within the space’s core by various movable shields of radar-absorbent material (RAM) and faraday meshing, preventing signals from entering and—more importantly—exiting. Just as a curtain can be drawn to visually expose the domestic interior of a traditional home, panels can be slid open to allow radio waves to enter and exit, when so desired. RAM house is a proposal of cohabitation with technology other than by a constant default presence.

It’s a thought-provoking concept, following some thoughts from Rem Koolhaas who predicts that “a Faraday Cage will be a necessary component of any home – a safe room in which to retreat from digital sensing and pre-emption.”

The RAM House will be displayed at the Atelier Clerici in Milan from April 14-19.

[RAM House] [via BLDGBLOG] [Faraday Favelas]

If you’re as fed up over unconstitutional and illegal mass surveillance as we are, take a moment out of your day to give Congress a call and ask that they vote against reauthorizing Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Sure, we get it. Making phone calls isn’t for everyone. But they’re the single most important thing you can do to get your message across to members of Congress quickly and easily.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s make mass surveillance history.


John Oliver flew 10 hours to Russia to interview Edward Snowden and get him on record.

I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced.

Jeb Bush. Glenn Greenwald comments:

One of the most glaring myths propagated by Washington — especially the two parties’ media loyalists — is that bipartisanship is basically impossible, that the two parties agree on so little, that they are constantly at each other’s throats over everything. As is so often the case for Washington partisan propaganda, the reality is exactly the opposite.

Culture and privacy: A sociology of the shotgun house.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

In the working and middle class neighborhoods of many Southern cities, you fill find rows of “shotgun” houses. These houses are long and narrow, consisting of three or more rooms in a row. Originally, there would have been no indoor plumbing — they date back to the early 1800s in the U.S. — and, so, no bathroom or kitchen.

Above is a photograph of a shotgun house I took in the 7th ward of New Orleans. It gives you an idea of just how skinny they are. In a traditional shotgun house, there are no hallways, just doors that take a person from one room to the next. Here’s my rendition of a shotgun floor plan; doors are usually all in a row:

At, Richard Campanella describes the possible origins and sociological significance of this housing form. He follows folklorist John Michael Vlach, who has argued that shotgun houses are indigenous to Western and Central Africa, arriving in the American South via Haiti. Campella writes:

Vlach hypothesizes that the 1809 exodus of Haitians to New Orleans after the St. Domingue slave insurrection of 1791 to 1803 brought this vernacular house type to the banks of the Mississippi.

In New Orleans, shotgun houses are found in the parts of town originally settled by free people of color, people who would have identified as Creole, and a variety of immigrants. Outside of New Orleans, we tend to see shotgun houses in places with large black populations.

The house, though, doesn’t just represent a building technique, it tells a story about how families were expected to interact. Shotgun houses offer essentially zero privacy. Everyone has to tromp through everyone’s room to get around the house. There’s no expectation that a child won’t just walk into their parents’ room at literally any time, or vice versa. There’s no way around it.

“According to some theories,” then, Campanella says:

…cultures that produced shotgun houses… tended to be more gregarious, or at least unwilling to sacrifice valuable living space for the purpose of occasional passage.

Cultures that valued privacy, on the other hand, were willing to make this trade-off.

Sure enough, in the part of New Orleans settled by people of Anglo-Saxon descent, shotgun houses are much less common and, instead, homes are more “privacy-conscious.”

Over time, as even New Orleans became more and more Anglo-Saxon as it neared the turn of the twentieth century, shotguns fell out of favor. And, as Campanella notes, while they’re enjoying a renaissance today, many renovations of these historic buildings include a fancy, new hallway.

Cross-posted at A Nerd’s Guide to New Orleans

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo by Francois Proulx (Creative Commons).

We all know we’re being tracked online. For the most part, we’re really pretty comfortable with it. We joke about how weird it is to have ads follow us around the internet, how it’s spooky the way Google divines what you’re interested in. It’s bigger than spooky. I would argue that being tracked by companies has made us worry less about being tracked by the government. We used to get really upset if the FBI taped a microphone to the side of a phone booth and eavesdropped on one guy! Now, the government collects data on all of us and we shrug it off. Social media has made us more comfortable with surveillance of all kinds.

Companies like Facebook and Google now set the cultural conversation about what privacy entails. And for some people, there’s much more at stake here than the prices of a new binder from Staples or a Capital One credit card. The constant tracking is a civil rights issue. The idea that “if you don’t do anything illegal online, you don’t have anything to worry about” just doesn’t hold true for some communities.

The upcoming documentary The Feeling of Being Watched takes a look at FBI surveillance in a small town that’s ironically named Justice, Illinois. The town has a big Arab-American population and something weird is clearly going on. The film’s trailer explains that Justice residents endured all kinds of privacy invasions, including a sketchy surveillance van cruising their neighborhoods.

I didn’t know about this until incident until someone pointed me to The Feeling of Being Watched. I have to wonder, wouldn’t this have been major national news a generation ago? We’ve come a long way from getting upset about taping microphones to phone booths. But maybe we don’t talk about privacy as much because surveillance doesn’t impact us all equally. While we’re all tracked, only some of us pay the price.

Keep reading “How Social Media Makes Us Feel Less Upset About Surveillance” by Sarah Mirk at