Well, this is disturbing. But I suppose that’s the point.
As reported in Wired, two mischievous-yet-dead-serious activists have developed an eavesdropping lamp device that records nearby conversations, then automatically posts transcribed audio snippets to Twitter.
The Conversnitch — created by Brian House and Kyle McDonald — is a DIY device that can be assembled for less than $100. The components? A credit-card sized Raspberry Pi computer, a microphone, an LED light and a plastic flower pot. When put together, the device can be screwed into any standard light bulb socket — that’s how it’s powered — and it will record and upload audio via Wi-Fi.
Those audio files, in turn, are transcribed via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service — an online marketplace that includes on-demand transcription services. Once audio becomes text, snippets of the captured conversations are posted directly to the Conversnitch Twitter account.
The creators have already deployed Conversnitch in several locations. On the project’s Vimeo page, you can see operatives installing the surveillance device in a number of public and private spaces — a restaurant, a library, a bedroom. Check it out below.
It’s all designed to encourage conversation, as it were, about surveillance technology and the dangers of instant wireless communication. The Conversnitch system only posts anonymous snippets — real names are edited out — and it isn’t meant to snoop, really. It’s meant to provoke. “I think you have to make things provocative or even dangerous if you want people to pay attention,” McDonald told Wired.
Browse the Conversnitch Twitter feed, and it’s indeed an eerie experience to read the procession of random snippets:
Yikes. Insert your own “Brave New World” reference here.
Credit: Kyle McDonald via Vimeo