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VIDEO: Courage and Tactical Tech introduce Surveillance Without Borders at C-base

‘Surveillance Without Borders – the Snowden Archives, Data Visualizations and a Call to Action’

Courage’s Naomi Colvin and Tactical Tech’s Maria Xynou teamed up for a talk at Berlin’s hacker space C-base and a call for action to find new ways of telling stories with the Snowden documents.

Colvin explained Courage’s two projects for increasing public access to a critically important set of documents, which have been released to the public in a scattered and ad hoc way. The revelations page on our Edward Snowden support site groups the major news stories generated by the NSA documents chronologically, linking stories to the most complete versions of the documents they are based on. Our Snowden Document Search, produced in collaboration with Transparency Toolkit, allows the full text of all the documents published to date to be searched or browsed by categories.

Xynou has taken the document corpus used in the Snowden Document Search to produce ‘Surveillance without Borders,’ a data visualisation that uses the whole body of the available documents to illustrate the NSA’s global reach and the expansiveness of its operations.

Three years after the appearance of the first revelation based on Edward Snowden’s courageous contribution to the public record, there is a danger of the revelations being regarded as ‘old news’, whereas in fact as a community we have barely scratched the surface of the insights they have to offer us. In a climate where repressive surveillance laws are being proposed and passed by Parliaments, there is a need to generate public awareness and political action around these issues. Research has shown that digital rights activists are not communicating effectively even with those communities who are directly affected by surveillance programmes.

In this difficult climate, finding new ways to illustrate stories within the Snowden documents, and approaching the documents as a whole rather than a group of individual news stories, provides a viable route forward. Surveillance Without Borders represents an example of how this might be accomplished, but we need more voices to join this effort.

The Snowden document archive that forms the basis of our Snowden document search is available on github here.

We encourage those with an interest in visualisations and open data to start exploring these possibilities, and announcements of collaborative events in several cities are likely to follow later in the year. If you would like to be made aware of these plans as they develop, please get in touch with us at