“Speculative Privacy: Practical and impractical things you can do to your phone” is a lecture-workshop-performance format I presented at the Datapolitics conference track during the annual International Summer festival, Kampnagel, Hamburg on August 20th.
First the audience got stickers on their smart phone cameras at the entrance (in true Berghain manner) and then was instructed to do a few tests and look up settings on their devices during the talk. In the second half of the presentation everyone was invited to the stage to test different tools and materials on their phones while we kept discussing todays privacy questions. Some of the ‘mini workshops’ are useful others don’t really make sense but offer a strong therapeutic moment to ‘grill’ your mobile phone in a non destructive way. You always wanted to flush your phone in the toilet or bury it in cement? This is your chance! Have it vacuumed in a plastic bag and dip it in paint or through it in other actions!
Aram Bartholl, 2016
How to cement in your phone in a non-destructive way!
Aram Bartholl: Speculative Privacy
Aram Bartholl ist Konzept- und Medienkünstler. Im Mittelpunkt seines Interesses steht die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit der zunehmenden Digitalisierung unseres Alltags. In seinen oft humorvollen Arbeiten überführt er Items aus der Netzwelt ins Analoge, um bspw. die Allgegenwärtigkeit von Internetunternehmen wie Google sichtbar zu machen. In seinem performativen Workshop TRANSPARENCY zeigt er welche digitalen Spuren bei der Benutzung von Smartphones entstehen und welche Möglichkeiten es gibt, diese zu verwischen.
Thanks to the Kampnagel team for making all this possible!
Or – How to make sure your phone is not listening on you. “Deaf Chamber (for phones)” is a mobile, low-cost, DIY sound dampening tube to prevent supposedly hacked phones from eavesdropping on its owner.
The Matryoshka tube in a tube concept works well to isolate a phone sound proof from its environment.
To avoid impact sound transmission the tubes are isolated with foam. Add another tube if you want to increase the sound proofing quality.
Once targeted a standard mobile phone can be hacked by an attacker and easily be modified to record sound at any time. This might sound like a farfetched spy story to you but in the year 3 after Snowden politicians, lawyers, NGOs or journalists have to deal very much with these kind of questions. Recently Edward Snowden & Bennie Huan presented the project “Introspection Engine”, a hardware modification for iPhones that monitors and signals radio traffic on a hardware level to make sure the phone is ‘really off’. Different voices in the hacker community pointed out that this device cannot prevent phones from listen to a conversation and to relay the data ‘later’ to the ‘attacker’. It is generally advised for i.e. journalists who are meeting a ‘source’ to leave their phones ‘at home’ or in a sound dampening closet like a fridge nearby. However, depending on the local situation this is not necessarily a practical solution. You might need the phone to plan the meeting and maybe the place where you meet has no fridge or similar appliances accessible.
How does it work?
Like a russian Matryoshka doll the phone is locked into a foam isolated plastic tube with screw cover, which again is placed in an isolated plastic tube. After a series of tests with different containers it showed that a round tube of hard plastic provides good properties to block sound. It is very important to disrupt direct contact of the phone case and plastic tubes to avoid impact sound transmission. The double layer tube in a tube approach can be improved with a 3rd or more layers of plastic tubes. Surprisingly it is quite difficult to prevent a phone microphone from ‘hearing’ something. Try it yourself! I did tests with pouches, boxes, kitchen containers, glass containers, pelican cases and so on. Often there the recorded sound is already very low but always good enough to listen to a conversation once you pull up the volume in post-production audio software. Heavy high density material would work best to block sound waves but to walk around with a concrete block seems not very practical. However if you find out other better solutions please share your ideas!
- Get different size plastic drain tubes and covers with rubber seals from your local DIY store. Screw covers are advised but sometimes harder to get. In german the grey tubes are called ‘HT-Rohr‘
- Buy some foam. I used just 10 mm standard foam but there is also special foam for sound canceling available i.e. in the auto mobile market available. Total cost of tubes and foam ca 24,- €
- Place the phone in the isolated tube and close the cover tight. Make sure the phone cover is not touching the tube directly. Place the small tube in the big tube and also close this one tight.
( The small tube I got only has diameter of only 7,5 cm. Small size smart phones still fit in here. Any new iPhone or Samsung will need a bigger tube. )
Make sure to test your setup! Put your phone to record audio and lock it in the tubes. Try different sound sources in a variety of distances to the deaf chamber and check the results in audio software on your computer. In a normal medium sound environment, with a distance of 1-2 meters and normal voice speaking level I wasn’t able to extract any usable audio from the recordings. Only rely on this proposal for a sound proofing capsule if you have tested and proofed its function properly. Tips and recommendations from audio/eavesdropping experts are welcome! ;)
I presented this sound proof tube concept along with the killyourphone.com pouches workshop end of 2013 at the #30C3 conference, the annual congress of the CCC (Chaos Computer Club) but haven’t documented it properly since then. This blog post is dedicated to Linus Neumann and Tim Pritlove from Logbuch Netzpolitik.org. ;))
This is an audio test with the above shown setup. “Logbuch Netzpolitik” #190 is running at a decent volume (normal voice level). The tubes are closed and then placed ca. 1m away from the speaker. If you are able to extract the conversation of Tim and Linus while the phone (iPhone 5) is in the tube please let me know!
AV / DV
intervention & object
rubber, metal, 40x5x2cm, video 1:49 min
AV /DV is a customized 40 cm pressure hose – AV Auto valve / DV Dunlop valve adapter – to balance pressure between a car and bicycle tire. First tested and shown at Remind me later solo show at Kunstverein Arnsberg.
Remind Me Later
8.07. – 28.09.2016
Kunstverein Arnsberg e.V.
Thanks to the whole team of the Kunstverein Arnsberg!! It was a crazy good week putting this together with a lot of help of many people, thank you everyone! THX to Vlado Velkov making all this possible! :))
Remind Me Later
8.07. – 28.09.2016
Eröffnung der Ausstellung und Sommerfest im Garten des Kunstvereins
am Freitag, 8.07.2016, 19 Uhr
Kunstverein Arnsberg e.V.
by Nadja Buttendorf & Aram Bartholl
public intervention, video 2:41 min
credits: Lee Tusman on lookout! Thx! :))
‘Long Lasting LED’
by Nadja Buttendorf & Aram Bartohll
Video, 2:02 min
“Going to the beach”
Venice, Los Angeles 2016
Live stream intervention involving a green screen, periscope.tv & Venice. Thanks to the team!! Credits to: Nadja Buttendorf, Theo Triantafyllidis, Lee Tusman, Ashley B. & periscope.tv
Build And Run
dimension: 1024 x 768px, medium: computer game, PC & web
The workshop night at Machine Project in L.A. with Crypto Nails by Nadja Buttendorf and KILLYOURPHONE.COM was very much fun! Thx to Machine Project for hosting this event!! & thx to the people for stat-us.org for inviting us!! Also thanks to Simon Steiner from Otis for this super cool handmade screen print poster!!
Saturday, April 30, 8:00pm–10:00pm
1200 N Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA
How to share a 12,-$ UCLA parking ticket:
- Get your 12,- $ all day visitor parking ticket .
- Leave it in the car as long as you park at UCLA.
- When you leave pass it on!
DOMENICO QUARANTA: Oh, When the Internet Breaks at Some Point
“Walked out this morning / Don’t believe what I saw / A hundred billion bottles / Washed up on the shore / Seems I’m not alone at being alone / A hundred billion castaways / Looking for a home” The Police, “Message in a Bottle”, 1979
Back in October 2010, German artist Aram Bartholl cemented 5 USB flash drives in various locations in New York, as part of an Eyebeam residency.  Referring to the way, in espionage, items are passed between two individuals using a secret location and without an actual meeting, he called the project Dead Drops. The first five dead drops were empty, except for a small readme file explaining the project. A dedicated website was set up, featuring a video tutorial and a simple “how to” and inviting people to participate in the project.
In interviews, Bartholl explained that at the beginning he was just fascinated by the power of an image: a small data container plugged in the wall, in public space, and a person trying to access it with her own device. He invited people to participate by dropping files in and taking files out, installing their own dead drop and sending the GPS coordinates to Bartholl. As in many collaborative projects, he wasn’t particularly confident about people’s participation, and he believed that the project was conceptually strong enough even in the shape of a small, five-nodes network. But people liked the idea, and as I’m typing on my keyboard today, the online database features almost 1500 registered dead drops for a total storage space of 9891 gigabytes. I installed my own a while ago and I’ve noticed some others along the years, and I’ve always been fascinated by the precariousness of these tiny, rusty artifacts. I’ve never seen anybody plugging in, and probably most of them are almost empty, or out of work. But they are, still, extremely powerful as an image.
Message in a Bottle
“A Dead Drop is a naked piece of passively powered Universal Serial Bus technology embedded into the city, the only true public space. In an era of growing clouds and fancy new devices without access to local files we need to rethink the freedom and distribution of data. The Dead Drops movement is on its way for change! Free your data to the public domain in cement! Make your own Dead Drop now! Un-cloud your files today!!!” Aram Bartholl, “The Dead Drops Manifesto”, 2010 
The dead drops network emerged in an age that saw a major shift in the general perception of the internet as a public space. Widespread Wi-Fi access, the massive adoption of social networking sites, and the advent of smartphones made people start to think about the internet as a new public space, with no physical boundaries and infrastructure, where data can be shared and taken easily and seamlessly. The metaphor of the cloud, already used in the Nineties to describe the internet, became more and more popular in the late 2000s, when cloud computing emerged – further reinforcing the idea of an immaterial public space and eroding the difference between public and private, local and shared. As Annet Dekker wrote in 2008:
KILLYOURPHONE at Machine project LA
http://machineproject.com/2016/events/kill-your-phone-crypto-nails/Saturday, April 30, 8:00pm–10:00pm
1200 N Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA
“Join us in the Machine Project storefront on Saturday, April 30th at 8pm for an evening of counter-surveillance fun organized by the Cryptoparty team, featuring special guests Aram Bartholl and Nadja Buttendorf.
Your phone is the window to your soul. Keeper of credit cards, holder of location data, archive of incriminating voice memos. Kill Your Phone! In this open source workshop, Aram Bartholl and the LA Cryptoparty crew will teach you to make a special signal-blocking phone pouch, to keep your ever-vulnerable Glowing Brick of Light safe from the vast array of threats facing the modern citizen, including but not limited to: CIA operatives, Russian teenagers, NSA contractors, and Glop-dwelling cyber-urchins. Feel free to bring clothes of your own to modify for wearable wave-blocking.
But that’s not all! After your phone is shielded safe and sound, it’s time to weaponize your fingers with Nadja’s Magnetic Nail Art Studio. Equip your nails with custom EXPLANTS, as we magnetize our fingertips for crypto-defense. Blank credit cards with the swipe of a finger, conveniently hold metal objects, feel the magnetic waves, change your report cards!
This event is open to all. $5 suggested donation to cover material costs. Bring a sewing machine if you have one!”
Result of a Twitter conversation. ‘Never worry again”, Photoshop, Aram Bartholl, 2016
your kids will love these take-my-money-now buttons… pic.twitter.com/baLgDi4iHO
— Ar@m B@rtholl (@arambartholl) April 15, 2016
Offline/Online Convergences: Aram Bartholl and Kathy Rae Huffman
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 | 7 pm
LACMA, Art + Technology Lab, Art of the Americas Building