There’s no shortage of applications for Virtual Reality but here a new one – EFF’s VR Experience – Spot the Surveillance. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is using technology in the battle against the abuses of technology. It’s an interesting twist that we’ll see more of as citizens work to reign in excesses in power.
The EFF’s VR experience
Here’s the quick description from EFF,
Spot the Surveillance, which works best with a VR headset but will also work on standard browsers, places users in a 360-degree street scene in San Francisco. In the scene, a young resident is in an encounter with police. Users are challenged to identify surveillance tools by looking around the scene. The experience takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.
The surveillance technologies featured in the scene include a body-worn camera, automated license plate readers, a drone, a mobile biometric device, and pan-tilt-zoom cameras. The project draws from years of research gathered by EFF in its Street-Level Surveillance project, which shines a light on how police use, and abuse, technology to spy on communities.
You can use it with a VR viewer such as Google Cardboard or other low to midrange VR headsets and through the Mozilla browser (it will a few moments to load) at https://www.eff.org/spot-the-surveillance/
Can VR affect Change?
One of the goals of the project is to see if VR can bring about changes in behavior. EFF Web Developer Laura Schatzkin, who coded the project notes that,
One of our goals at EFF is to experiment with how emerging online technologies can help bring about awareness and change. The issue of ubiquitous police surveillance was a perfect match for virtual reality. We hope that after being immersed in this digital experience users will acquire a new perspective on privacy that will stay with them when they remove the headset and go out into the real world.
VR and privacy
If you’re concerned about privacy in VR, take a look at the quick recommendations from Pollengame on mitigating risk:
- Change default settings of the VR gadgets.
- Set up separate email addresses and passwords for devices that operate in virtual environments.
- Use a VPN to make all your internet communication pass through a point-to-point encrypted tunnel. Go for something like PIA (PIA review) VPN that offers multiple VPN technologies like PPTP, OpenVPN, SOCKS5 etc.
Surveillance in the global community
EFF’s VR experience is only a small step in this area but the project could not come at a more opportune time.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.