PoliceState

PoliceState (2002) is an art project by Jonah Brucker-Cohen.

PoliceState

Jonah Brucker-Cohen: PoliceState

Carnivore is the nickname for the FBI's DCS1000 surveillance software. In the Carnivore Project the Radical Software Group (RSG) has made this software public and given designers and artists the chance to experiment with it. Based on the FBI software, which is used to eavesdrop on data traffic such as email and surfing behavior, RSG has developed an open source version called CarnivorePE. This application sends data from all kinds of Internet traffic to a selected group of computer artists all over the world, who then interpret and process the data in different ways, translating it into creative interfaces -- so-called 'clients'. By doing so, the Carnivore project wants to challenge the legitimacy of surveillance software and explore how data streams can be visualized.

PoliceState, designed by Jonah Brucker-Cohen, is one of these creative applications, which visualizes data traffic in a motorized way. The hardware part of the installation consists of 20 radio-controlled miniature police cars which are simultaneously fed with data taken off the DEAF03 network. This data is analyzed by CarnivorePE by using a 'blacklist' of keywords that, according to the FBI, are indications of a terrorist attack on American territory. When found, such a suspect word is converted by PoliceState's software into a police code, causing the toy cars to disperse in a controlled choreography. The police codes correspond with actual radio codes used by the Californian State Police, referring to potential terrorist threats by numbers (for instance, '10-79' for a bomb attack, and '1000''' for a crashed plane). With each police code they receive, the toy cars start to drive around in a new pattern, while a siren wails and the current threat is announced by loudspeakers.

With this installation, Jonah Brucker-Cohen exposes the faltering nervous system of the police state: every human activity on a network leaves an electronic trace that can be translated and converted into a code for police action by means of surveillance software. However, the stored data investigated by the authorities is the same data used to guide the police. The roles are reversed; the strong arm of the law is a puppet of its own surveillance and the authorities themselves are controlled by the information they think they are checking.

PoliceState generates a choreography of radio controlled miniature police cars, directed by software written by the Radical Software Group. The software is based on surveillance software used by the FBI to scan e-mail and other network traffic for terrorist activities. The data traffic on the DEAF03 network will be continuously scanned for subversive language. This on-line activity information now controls the routing and sirens of the police cars.

PoliceState by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (DEAF03) from V2_ on Vimeo.

 

 

Nederlands / Dutch text

Carnivore is de derde generatie surveillance-software van de FBI voor het aftappen van dataverkeer, zoals email, ftp en url. De Radical Software Group (RSG) heeft een open source variant van Canivore, CarnivorePE, publiek gemaakt voor experimenten van ontwerpers en kunstenaars. De applicatie verspreidt data van internetverkeer naar een geselecteerde groep computerkunstenaars over de hele wereld, die de data op verschillende manieren interpreteren en vertalen naar creatieve interfaces, zogenaamde "clients". Het Carnivore-Project wil zo de legitimiteit van surveillance-software aan de kaak stellen en de mogelijkheden onderzoeken, waarop datastromen in beeld gebracht kunnen worden.

Een van die creatieve toepassingen van de software van RSG is PoliceState, naar ontwerp van Jonah Brucker-Cohen. De installatie verbeeldt specifieke datastromen als motorisch verkeer. Het hardware-gedeelte van de installatie bestaat uit twintig politieautootjes, die tegelijkertijd worden aangestuurd door data van het DEAF03-netwerk. De data wordt door CarnivorePE ontleed aan de hand van een "zwarte lijst" met trefwoorden, die voor de FBI als indicatie gelden voor mogelijke terroristische activiteiten. Wordt zo"n verdacht woord gevonden, zet de software van PoliceState het om in politiecode, die de autootjes doen uitzwermen in een geregisseerde choreografie. De politiecodes corresponderen met bestaande radiocodes van de Californische staatspolitie en verwijzen naar potentiële terroristische dreigingen (zoals "10-79" voor een bomaanslag en "1000" voor een neergestort vliegtuig). Voor elke code rijden de autootjes in gelijke tred een nieuw patroon, terwijl een sirene loeit en de bedreiging over luidsprekers wordt omgeroepen.

PoliceState legt het haperende zenuwstelsel van de politiestaat bloot: ieder menselijke activiteit op een netwerk laat een elektronisch spoor achter, dat met behulp van surveillance-software vertaald kan worden en omgezet in een code voor politieoptreden. Echter, de opgeslagen data, waarin autoriteiten rondspeuren, is dezelfde waarmee de politie wordt aangestuurd. De rollen zijn omgedraaid: de sterke arm der wet is een marionet van haar eigen surveillance en de autoriteiten worden zelf bestuurd door de informatie die ze menen te controleren.

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