My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Secret Service follow up on LiveJournaler

Apparently, anniesj wrote an anti-Bush post on her LJ. Someone else on LJ reported this to the FBI and the nice Secret Service people showed up at her door. While they didn’t arrest her, she now has a record. She documents the full situation on her LJ.

People often ask me why i’m opposed to sousveillance. I believe that giving everyone the right to surveillance will not challenge those in power who have such ability. I believe that it will legitimize them. Furthermore, i believe that people will use the power of surveillance to maintain the status quo. Worse, i believe that it will be used to create more hate, distrust and fear. Sousveillance in the hands of the masses will not be used to challenge authority because most people believe in the legitimacy of that authority, whether it be corporations or the government. Furthermore, they believe they should fear when those authorities tell them that they should fear everyone. Even when they are not told, when the media consistently reports on all the terrible things that individual Islamic people do, they believe that they should fear all Islamic people. Fuck Brin. A transparent society would mean complete marginalization of already oppressed peoples in this country.

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12 comments to Secret Service follow up on LiveJournaler

  • stef

    danah, isn’t the election citizen patrol stuff you have been blogging about a form of sousveillance?

    also the video clip about abused women brings to mind how persons can defend themselves from abusers. It could help international courts catch criminals.

    sent you some email about expressing your opionion in our magazine, hope you bury the on line hatchet with me, i really am a nice person, though tangental; by the way, i was just interviewed by the fbi myself and it was not pleasant. will trackback the blog entry later.

    also wrote to John perry Barlow who may have an opinion on all this stuff as well.

    looking forward to your always impulsive, yet emotionally honest words, filled with that passionate polemic of apophenia.

    stef

  • Reminds me a bit of when that happened to someone on kuro5hin.org back in 2001. I think this post has the first-person account.

  • This is not the first instance of FBI investigation of LiveJournaller;Artvamp got a visit last year. Though I’m with you on sousveillance (um, no Steve Mann, a camera on every head doesn’t equalize power relationships), I do think sometimes places like LJ allow users to form solidarity around these issues, in a sort of “let’s make sure to watch–and report–them watching us, together” way. Ugh, more later, because I am tired, but short response is I’m with you on this.

  • In a world where surveillance by the powers that be is becoming increasingly ubiquitous, sousveillance seems to be a logical counter. Now, you say that it won’t change the power structures, because the most people won’t challenge authority…and, if I am reading you correctly, that the people doing sousveillance to the powers will also do surveillance to the opressed…opressing them further?

    Does sousveillance lead to some kind of mob complex?

    But what is the alternative? Surveillance is here to stay, I think. Sousveillance is rising, and the results are still to be determined. Is there are third option? I remember a scifi story I read where a group of the watched formed a cult where they lived in darkness and/or a kind of reflective armor so as not to be watched. But that surely isn’t a technique for the masses! (esp. masses of opressed).

  • Fabrice

    As you probably know, such practices are illegal in Europe (so far, no ‘patriot act’ here, and considering europe’s administration, such a thing is totaly impossible).
    My question here is quite simple, why dont you guys take pseudonims and use europeans blog services?
    Unless Kerry gets ellected (fingers crossed, the world IS WATCHING YOU on this issue), this situation is here to stay in the US. Take a look at the Chinese, they’re in a much more anti free speech situation compared to what’s happening in the US, and they still manage to express themself…

    I lived in the US during the 70’s, and ‘land of the free’ had a real meaning in these times, altough praying in class every morning in front of the flag was pretty shocking (I was in first grade at the time, and I come from a country where religion and politics are totaly separated – hello, I’m french :-), I learned to deeply love this country.

    I’m sure that – eventualy – all this will go back to normal, but for now, maybe you guys should learn to be a bit more paranoid – you know, like those NRA fans & red necks setting up small armies in the mountains because they’re affraid the government will take away their rights, especialy their second amendment 😉

    For instance, I’m not signing this post, because I come back from time to time to visit some family in the States, and I don’t want some guy stopping me at the border because the FBI spotted me…

    One last word, since I’m pretty sure that most of the readers of this blog are democrats, and since I’m not an american citizen :

    PLEASE MOVE YOUR ASS AND VOTE !!!

    Thanks, the whole world is as anxious as you during these elections.

  • “Sousveillance.” Clever – and accurate.

  • My question is: How do we know it’s real, and not a ploy for attention?

  • stef

    alli, its real. I took a picture of a surveillance cam during the RNC protest and someone got my licence number and walla, i got investigated. the way it work is that anyone can report and the current policy is that all reports have to be investigated in person. that it, all i have to say is that danah girl is advocating taking pics of government buildings for /voter abuses and monitoring, and walla, someone will come and investigate her because taking a picture of a federal building is a federal offense. since 9/11, and prior to that, oaklahoma bombing, the feds have been told by the congressional people that there is no room for error, so all complaints become a valid investigation. The fed agents that investigated me where very polite and i could tell they felt it was a bogus complaint and needed to probably investigate real criminals,like the ones that stole danah’s stuff a while ago when she used the sousveillance technique to track them down via her blog. So here, the social network begins to work like a neural network/fuzzy logic system, that creates a virtual search engine. Danah did encourage her audience to look for these suspects. So hence, Danah’s comments regarding Mr Brin seem to be more of a personal attack, rather than a philosophical disagreement, being that in action, danah did try and turn her social network into a search and arrest network. The troubling thing is that we are targeting several suspects based on an allegation and are not sure if the sousavaillant was sober enough to know for sure if it was these persons who stole Danah’s stuff.

    Foe – actually, i am 100% certain. First, one of my friends caught the one guy in the act, but didn’t realize it until moments after the group left that he hadn’t walked in on the guy peeing, but going through my purse. They left rather abruptly and quickly, with no goodbyes. Second, i had grabbed my smokes from my purse only a few minutes before and this group was the only group to leave between my accessing my purse and the point in which we realized it. Part of the problem is that they aren’t suspects to me; they are a group of people who committed a felony against me. I refuse to cover this in flowerly language just to be mainstream because i’m not a third party in this situation.

    Part of the point of unbiased language is because a third party is only operating with anecdotes, not first hand experiences. Law enforcement and mainstream media are counting on informants; they are not the ones experiencing the emotions, having had firsthand contact with the ‘suspects’ etc. The robbery isn’t an ethnographic exercise for me, nor do i want to turn it into such. It is an event that happened in my life for which i have strong emotions and convictions based on detailed moments of interaction with strangers who went from sharing jokes to committing an unacceptable act.

    I guess it also depends on what you mean by being helpful.

    [Also, i should note that it wasn’t my home; a friend lent us her place to throw a party.]
    Posted by: zephoria at March 24, 2004 01:33 AM

    there will probably be more investigations as this stupid and expensive policy will prevail. according with the aclu, you don’t have to speak to the fbi on these investigations, and you could record them, like many other persons do. check out Declan’s politech site for some more info, ect.

    the sousveillance stuff makes no sense without the idea of equivaillance. And Danah is in the right when she says that sousveillance can create marginalization, and in fact, there is an angry mob and persecution that can evolve from unbalanced sousveillance.

    what if someone found one of these alleged perpetrators, or knew who they where? I think there is something her that demostrates Danah’s anger at the detective who was supposed to catch and avenge what was done to her: frankly, from the detectives perspective, other crimes may be more important to solve, ie murder, rape; the serious stuff rather than a irresponsible college students flamboyant behavior that opened her up to the theft. The serious crimes deserve more attention rather than all this clutter of pettiness: but thats what Artifical intelligence will bring us: more things to observe and report, with the current one way surveillance infrastructure encouraging us all to report each other to the feds: come on, if we do it all at the same time, we will really let them know who is watching who.

    The fed agents that interviewed me were pissed they had to interview an wacky doctor who poses no real terrorist threat the the US. It was a stupid investigation based on a stupid reporting. We all become more like the protagonist’s in Kurt’s story ; this is exactly what is being satirized: the era of absurd pettiness with no one leaving nobody else alone.

  • Annie Gets a Visit

    Posted by Smoky Joe, JD in Defense of Freedom Had to laugh my ass off reading this, via apophenia. Annie posts something critical of Bush on her LiveJournal. She and her mother get a visit from the Secret Service….

  • pretend it not me

    yeah, danah also said this

    Yet, this situation interests me beyond my personal investment. Don’t get me wrong.. on a personal level, i’m pretty pissed that these guys had the gaul to come to my party and steal my shit. But on a meta-level, there are some interesting questions.

    If the United States really is a small world, the people that i know should know people [iterate to on average 5.5] that know these guys, right? If blogs can extend beyond the echo-chamber, shouldn’t we be able to use blogs to reach the people who know these guys?

    We’re living in a society that is quickly becoming camera-phone enabled. We’re worried about privacy when these pictures are broadcast, understandably. But can we use the breaks in privacy to demand legal justice? We often talk about how the Interweb is affecting the regulation of social norms… Can the connected community around the Interweb also enforce law?

    Already, through this situation, i’ve seen the power of care. I’ve seen amazing people who i barely know act up to say this isn’t cool and do what they can to acquire information, spread the word, repost those pictures, etc. I’ve heard from people who’ve gone through similar situations. I’m in awe of the strangers who are being supportive, of the number of people who have experienced similar crap, with no justice.

    Can we go beyond support? Can the Interweb/blogosphere actually demand justice on a personal level? And if i can demand justice for me, can it demand justice for others in a similar predicament? Can citizens take control over the thieves?

    wonder how many cigarettes danah smokes these days: before you know it, she will be an executive or big time consultant who needs to get a million dollar life insurance policy…well…HIV risk factors as well as all them cigarettes she smokes, well,,,she should pay top shelf rates…its my civic duty to report her bad health habits, especially with the emphesyma she is developing from them methol cigarettes.

    just a concerned citizen and advocate for the rights of insurance brokers around the world and especially california.

  • Avoiding getting “Patriot-Acted”

    Another consideration of Osama…