How can we show - peacefully - that we are against electronic surveillance systems monitoring our communications digging for security threats? For anglo-indian design practice Superflux we could simply show those digital conversations excerpts which security agencies like NSA are constantly looking for, even if they are actually harmless. So they created Open Informant: a wearable badge, based on Arduino and a little E-Ink display, which works in sinergy with a smartphone app.

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Open Informant's core is an Arduino Pro Mini board which talks, via a Bluetooth module, with an app running on our smartphone. This app scans our e-mail messages in the same way surveillance systems do: looking for suspicious keywords. When it finds one, it takes the whole e-mail sentence containing the keyword and sends it to the Arduino board, to be displayed on the E-Ink screen.

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In the end, Open Informant has just a symbolic value: wearing it, we choose to show everyone the same conversations surveillance systems assume we want to keep secret. Of course this has no consequences but, as Superflux explains: "by openly displaying what is currently taken by forceful stealth, we question the intrusive forms of mass surveillance adopted by democratic nations on its own citizenry".

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But Open Informant could be very useful even if you don't share its motivations. All project assets are publicly available at this link. So, if you want to design something similar you'll get a big part of the job done, from vector files to laser-cut the badge case in different shapes to the Arduino sketch which controls the E-Ink display.

credit photo: Superflux

 

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