POST 10: Reflection and proposition

The draft proposal workshop was great, and highlighted a number of issues and opportunities with my proposition. Speaking briefly to my tutor I quickly realised that I would be unable to get administrative access to the Visual Communication and Emergent Practice Blog. After this, the workshop quickly turned into a brainstorming and rapid prototyping session. In reading out my ideas from the previous week to my partner we both felt that the application that converted complicated terms of service agreements into plain text would have the most value as a design proposition. We brainstormed some ideas around this, and developed the idea into a browser extension with a set of coloured icons that would reflect a site’s privacy policies in relation to specific areas of online privacy. We were able to come up with this idea much faster than in previous weeks because tasks 3A and 3B were finally explained to us. This was useful, but also extremely frustrating as would have been valuable to have this information earlier so I could have better shaped the research I conducted for the blog. This lack of communication has really detracted from my experience with the subject.


Users are generally unaware of how much information they contribute, either willingly or unwilling to online services. To help users understand how much data is being collected about them, I plan to create a service that simplifies deliberately complex terms of service contracts into easily understandable icons similar to those used in creative commons licensing. This icon set will breakdown the key terms that companies often obscure in complex legal documents, to help users better understand how their privacy is being affected. Some possible icons include: collection of personal and activity data, 1st and 3rd party data storage, selling of data and data ownership. These icons will be made open source to not only increase awareness of deceptive data practices but also create a framework for protecting privacy in the digital age. In addition to this, the service will also include the development of a website and browser extension designed to popularise the use of the icons. This website will work across desktop and mobile devices to provide an index of popular sites with their privacy policies broken down into icons and short descriptors. What’s more, the website will also act as a portal for users to suggest sites to be indexed and while also providing ways for them to aid in the development of the program. In addition, to this the website, the service will also include the development of a browser extension, which will provide users with real time information about the privacy policies of the site they’re currently visiting. Unfortunately owing to the more restrictive mobile ecosystem, this extension will be desktop only, which is disappointing given the popularity of mobile browsing. Despite this, the service’s icon set and accompanying web presence will help raise awareness within the target market of poor privacy practices while simultaneously providing a framework to promote greater transparency.


POST 9: Visual documentation of brainstorming session


This mind map looks at areas of interest to address within my problem statement. The map is divided into two broad issues, to help narrow down my focus. While the issue of national security was intriguing to me, I ultimately decided to focus on ownership of information as it was a much more universal issue. I made this map before generating problem statements to help summarise my view of the topic, and ensure that my statements were relevant to the issues I wanted to pursue.


This less well organised map shows some of the problem statements I generated before choosing and refining. In generating problem statements I tried to be as specific in situating the issue; which was difficult to do while keeping the phrasing succinct. Moreover, I was also careful to not make the statement so specific that I would have trouble generating design proposals in response to it. The statement I chose to refine from this exercise was “users are disconnected from the information they provide to online services”, which was later modified to “users are disconnected from the personal information they provide, either willingly, or unwillingly, to online services”. Adding in the phrase about willingly or unwillingly providing data addresses not only data collection programs, but also the data we agree to exchange when we register for online services.


Finally, this brainstorm looks at possible design solutions in response to my problem statement. Created in collaboration, with Brain, Chloe and Collette, this map encompasses both solutions, and broader ideas about what the proposal should accomplish. Despite choosing a relatively open statement, it was still very challenging to generate ideas. This is something that I think disproportionately affected the online privacy groups, as it is an extremely technical topic. Instead of focusing on mind mapping stakeholders and their emotions over the past weeks it would have instead been useful to undertake secondary research on the topic. I think that we spent too much time going over the same information in class and missed out on an opportunity to gain an understanding of the extremely complex mechanisms behind data surveillance, which in turn has made it hard to propose design solutions.

POST 8: Brainstorming possibilities for a design response

Like every tutorial in this subject, mind mapping was again introduced as a way to structure ideas around a topic. For online privacy, data surveillance and data security this involved writing down the same things as the previous weeks, only this time with a different word in the middle of the page. As you can probably tell, I’m a bit tired of mind mapping and question if there is no other way to promote discussion? With that being said, this week’s exercise was much more defined than other weeks, with a clear objective to work towards. I felt that having a defined outcome helped structure conversation and led to more motivated discussions, as everyone knew what had to be done in the allotted time. Doing individual mind maps in a group setting was another more useful approach to brainstorming that I felt helped incorporate different viewpoints. Working on other student’s mind maps also highlighted the variety that exists within the topic and the different areas of exploration that everyone had chosen to pursue. Below is the outcome of these activities. Despite this I still feel like there should be more communication from tutors about how these brainstorming activities inform our design outcomes for the forthcoming assessment tasks.

Defining the problem statement

Who does the problem effect? Be specific.

My problem effects every person and organisation that uses networked technology. In most cases these stakeholders are confined to developed countries, although this will no doubt become a global problem as technology becomes more and more accessible.

What are the boundaries of the problem?

Companies and governments are able to operate invasive data retention schemes due to a lack of awareness and understanding from users. The technology used to capture and analyse data is so advanced that there is almost no way for a layman to understand how it operates and how it breeches their right to privacy. Deliberately complex end user license agreements only seek to magnify this problem.

When does the problem occur?

The problem occurs every time a user connects one of their devices to the internet. Once online, data is collected about their activities, whether they specifically agree to it or not.

Where does the problem occur?

The problem occurs on every computer, tablet and smartphone connected to the internet. Data is collected from these devices on a massive scale, largely unbeknownst to the user.

Why is this important?

The issue of online privacy is important as effects everyone who uses the internet. As more and more objects become networked, it will become all but impossible to avoid having information collected about you. Companies and Governments are unlikely to change their stance on these invasive practices unless there is a large scale push to introduce stricter regulations of how and when information can be collected. More needs to be done to raise awareness of online privacy and the ways in which companies collect and use data they collect from individuals.

Problem statement

Users are disconnected from the information they provide, either willingly or unwillingly to digital systems.

5  point summary

  • Create a data visualisation based on people’s online activities. The map would pinpoint locations where a user has connected to a network in order to show how detailed information can be extrapolated from seemingly innocuous data points.
  • Design a service that converts complicated, end user licensing agreements into plain text. Doing this would allow people to better understand what information they are granting companies access to when they agree to use a service.
  • Create a service to personify data inputs when registering for online services. By making the data entered more personal, users will be more cautious about what information they provide. An example of this is a map, instead of a text field for specifying address.
  • Design a data visualisation based on publicly accessible information, such as geotagged posts and photographs. Build up a map using this information to show how easy it is to access this data as a user, let alone as a company with access to powerful scraping tools.
  • Create a service which adds tracking cookies at outgoing data packets in order to allow users to see where their data is being sent. This would reveal the database it initially gets sent to, as well as who else it is shared with. This might not even be possible to design.


To raise awareness of the amount of information user’s provide, either willingly, or unwillingly to online services, I plan to create a data visualisation based off publically accessible information. To do this I want to gain administrative access to the Visual communication and Emergent Practices blog to install a widget that records IP address. Tracking widgets like these are offered by WordPress as a means for bloggers to better understand their audience, but in this case would function as a very basic scraping tool. Although invasive, this IP widget possesses nowhere near the capabilities of programs run companies such as Google and Facebook. After collecting this information, I would then run reverse searches on all of the IP address to pinpoint the location of every student using the blog. Cross referencing this with other data, such as their WordPress username would allow me to paint a fairly detailed picture of every student’s name and geographic location. Doing this would not only show how easy it is to use data to create user profiles, but also highlight how powerful these major tech companies must be. After all if a single student with no coding experience could gather this much information, how much more must Google and Facebook know about me?

POST 7: Issue mapping

Co-creating controversy maps was a great way to quickly gain a broad understanding of the topic at hand. Interestingly, although both my partner and I had undertaken prior research on the subject we had both focused on very different areas of online privacy. The task of co-creating these visualisations helped identify nuances within our research and allowed us to come to a more holistic understanding of the topic. In addition to sharing knowledge, it was also interesting to get another student’s opinion on the divisive issue of online privacy. Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of online privacy was valuable as it allowed us to identify the variety of arguments that stakeholders have expressed about the issue. With that being said, the actual output of the mapping activity has not been particularly helpful to informing my design approach. Although I found it useful to discuss the issue of online privacy with another student, the maps we created are all but indecipherable. Based on my observation of other group’s maps, this is not a unique problem. I feel as though the way the controversy maps were introduced, coupled with limited time we had to complete them promoted a singular approach; write everything and anything you can about the topic as fast as possible. While this method did create large sprawling visualisations, it discounted a lot of the subtly and nuance that exists within complex problems. An example of this narrow focus is evident in our stakeholder map, which based on our tutor’s direction, focused on individual organisations. I feel a better, albeit more challenging approach would have been to look at broad categories of stakeholders. Doing this would have allowed us to better focus on their interests rather than on their identity, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the problem.

Post 7, image 2

This map was generated from earlier stakeholder maps seen in post 3. Building on from that, it looks at the emotions behind each issue and the motivations behind the various stakeholders. Interestingly the word which came up the most was control; governments want control over their population, companies want control over their share price, and users want control of their data.


I found this mapping concept very confusing to wrap my head around and thus did not generate a good outcome. This mind map builds upon the previous exercise, and incorporates stakeholders into the equation in relation to the issue of national security. The main takeout from this activity was that the media is highly influential in people’s perception of state sponsored data surveillance.

Post 7, image 4

This image looks at two actor mind maps we were able to work through. In this case, two actors vehemently opposed to the others actions. This visualisation highlights the motivations of each party, and how their different ideological views inform their actions in regards to online privacy, data surveillance and data security. It was also interesting to look at how they work around the restrictions placed upon them by their environment.

Post 7, image 3

This map shows all the actors; human and non-human associated with the issue of online privacy. This visualisation was more useful than some of the other mind maps as it provided a detailed framework around which to dissect our topic. Of particular interest in this map is the idea that data collected from users is a commodity. This raises interesting questions about how data is used as a new form of currency in the information age.


POST 6: Scraping the web for data

Twitter is a social media platform that allows users to send and receive Tweets. Tweets are short messages of up to 140 characters that can also contain images, videos and links. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be sent via SMS. This ensures that users can stay engaged with the service, even if they do not have access to the internet (Twitter 2016). Although Twitter may function similarly to an Instant messaging client it is far from it. Unlike a messaging application where the messages become unavailable when the program is closed, communications sent through twitter are permanently archived (Smith 2012). Moreover, unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, every profile on Twitter is set to public by default. This means that users can view the activity of almost anyone on the site (Twitter 2016). This makes Twitter a great tool to engage in a conversation with people from around the world. Twitter helps facilitate this dialogue through the inclusion of hashtags; metadata keyword labels that allow users to filter tweets by a specific theme (Smith 2012). This functionality is crucial to Twitter’s success and makes it easy for disparate groups of people come together to discuss issues in an open and approachable way.

Post 6, image 2-02
Open ended queries like this returned far better results than narrow searches

People are generally unaware of how much information they contribute to digital systems. This was something I identified from my primary research, and was able to explore further through data scraping techniques. Using Twitter’s advanced search I began by investigating how people responded to targeted advertisements, such as those found on Facebook and Google. In this instance the overwhelming majority of Twitter users expressed concern over how these companies were able to connect seemingly unrelated events to serve them highly targeted advertisements. This not only helped identify some of the ways in which companies can collect data, but also identified an important cognitive bias; that users are unlikely to understand or question the ramifications of granting access to their personal data until they see how powerfully it can be harnessed. With that being said, a small number of user’s also chalked up uncannily specific advertisements to coincidence. This indicates that these individuals don’t believe companies have the power or authority to collect and analyse data on such a scale. In addition to text analysis, I was also able to discover that the majority of people engaged in this debate were from the US, which is not surprising given their widespread access to telecommunications technology.

Post 6, image 1
A sample of the results returned from my Twitter advanced search

To develop this research visually, it would be interesting to look at how connecting data points can reveal new information about an individual. As stated above this is something that is generally not well understood, and would be interesting, albeit challenging to explore visually. One way this could be achieved is through overlaying a person’s electronic footprint on a map. Examples of information that could be used to paint a picture of this person’s day include EFTPOS purchases, Opal card activity and the use of a student ID card and its associated electronic login. As you can see with just a few data points, it would be very easy to begin to piece together a very detailed picture of this person and their activity over the course of the day. Alternatively it might also be interesting to look at the variety of different way your phone or laptop could be spying on you. Examples of this include GPS signals to track you location, cookies to track your activity online and accelerometer data to track your movement. While this is not as strongly connected to the idea of unwittingly contributing data to digital systems, it does relate to my earlier secondary research on WikiLeaks and the NSA.

  • People are growing increasingly suspicious of how much data is being collected about them without their consent.
  • The commercial value of data profiling is driving the development of more invasive collection techniques.
  • Most users do not read the terms of service outlining data collection policies when registering for online services.
  • Targeting advertising is becoming increasingly accurate as technology permeates more and more aspects of our lives.
  • Online privacy is very much a western issue at the moment, although it will become more relevant as developing countries become more connected.

Reference list

Smith, B. 2012, The beginner’s guide to Twitter, Mashable, viewed 3 September 2016, <>.

Twitter 2016, Getting started with Twitter, viewed 3 September 2016, <>.



POST 5: Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography

My interview focused on understanding people’s knowledge of, and responses to online privacy. In both interviews I began by asking my respondents what steps they took to protect their privacy. This simple question highlighted the dichotomy of online privacy; with one user saying they took a number of steps and the other saying they took none. Interestingly the respondent who did nothing simply stated that it was not worth the effort, as they felt their personal data would be collected no matter what. Following on from this, I also asked both interviewees about their opinion of data collection. In this instance both respondents stated that they had never really considered the implications of ubiquitous data collection, with both indicating they were against it in principal but were yet to have any negative experiences with it. The idea that people are generally unaware about their privacy and the information they contribute to digital systems is something I explored further in my probe.

Visitor and resident mapping provides a framework to analyse the myriad of ways that people engage with technology. Unlike other models, V&R mapping does not seek to label people with fundamental identities. Instead, it aims to identify the modes of behaviour and the motivations behind our use of technology (White & Lanclos 2015). To show this, participants are required to plot their online activity on a two dimensional axis. The y-axis provides a space to illustrate the distinctions between public and private activities, while the x-axis proves a space for participants to reflect on the visibility of their actions (White & Lanclos 2015).  Visibility is measured on a scale from resident to visitor. A resident is someone who maintains an active profile within an online platform by creating content and contributing to the discussion. A visitor is someone with little visibility within the platform they are using (University of Hull 2015). Visitors see the web as a tool, and thus only engage with it when a need arises.

Post 5, image 1
One of the V&R maps returned from my probe

Above is an example of an annotated visitor and resident map. In this instance the author has adhered to the common practice of situating social media platforms towards the resident side of the axis. Interestingly, the respondent has placed Twitter closer to the visitor end of the spectrum, annotating that they use it to follow the activity of others, but rarely engage in the conversation themselves. Likewise, YouTube is placed at the visitor end of the scale, with the author stating they watch content, but do not create their own or comment on others. Resident platforms like these are able to occupy a variety of locations due to the differing modes of engagement and motivations of their users. The discrepancies between intended and actual use was something I was interested in, and was able to gather information on using the V&R framework. V&R mapping was useful in this instance as it provided a rigid enough structure to return comparable results, while also allowing for enough freedom to uncover interesting insights. With that being said, it would have been good to get more respondents to complete the activity. Having a larger collection of datasets would allow for better comparisons of the ways that people interact with technology.

  • People are generally either highly aware, or ignorant of how much data is collected about them by digital systems.
  • Most people are unaware of what their personal information is used for.
  • It is hard for even the most careful individuals to avoid having their data collected online.
  • The majority of people do not understand the commercial value of their personal information.
  • Seemingly meaningless data can be quickly and easily assembled to form a detailed picture of an individual.

Reference list

University of Hull 2015, Mapping your own digital world, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.

White, D. & Lanclos, D. 2015, Visitors and residents mapping workshop, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.


POST 3: Mapping the participants (human and non-human) and constructing an image archive

Post 3, image 11.jpg

Above is a revised version of the participant map developed in class. Unlike previous versions of this exercise, this chart focuses on mapping broad categories of stakeholders rather than focusing on individual organizations. I found this beneficial as it created a more focused picture of the online privacy debate. Developing this map further, more research should be devoted to understanding the users of the internet and their motivations: which are often less well defined that than of business and institutions.

Post 3, image 1
(Davidson 2016)

Like the photograph of the GHCQ headquarters featured later in this post, the eye of providence is again referenced in this illustration. Seen commonly on US currency, the eye of providence represents the eye of God watching over all of mankind. This imagery has been used by the illustrator to make a comment the growing power of Australian Bureau of statistics following their decision to record names in the census.

Post 3, image 2
(Fairey 2007)

This artwork by American street artist Shepard Fairey looks at the dichotomy between government surveillance programs designed to protect us and the impact they have on our freedom. Using his trademark soviet propaganda style, Fairey paints a menacing picture of these tactics through the use of vibrant reds, and dark silhouettes. The text on the large billboard provides further insight into the artist’s view of state sponsored surveillance.

Post 3, image 3
(GCHQ 2013)

An interesting image from a presentation given to GCHQ officials about the NSA’s intercept abilities. This document was given to journalists at the Guardian by Edward Snowden to support his claim that US and UK spy agencies were engaged in a widespread program of internet surveillance. Similarly to the accompanying article, this image largely ignores GCHQ’s involvement, possibly due to pressure applied by the British government.

Post 3, image 4
(Hitz 2016)

This image explores the money that can be made selling malware on the black market. The image and the feature article it was embedded within tell a fascinating story about the amount of money software companies and governments pay hackers to find exploits in their own software, and that of their adversaries. This seemingly common practice within the technology market is not something that is often publicized.

Post 3, image 5
(Hitz 2016)

A colourful and clever image from editorial illustrator Christopher Hitz. In this image, Hitz touches on the idea that our online activities are being monitored by an external force. Like many of the images featured in this archive, the use of a large eye is again used to represent the omnipresent reach of US and UK spy agencies in relation to intercepting electronic communications.

Post 3, image 6
(Ministry of Defence 2004)

Ironically the headquarters of the GCHQ, Britain’s answer to the NSA, looks like an all seeing eye. The organisation’s omnipresent surveillance has been well documented in the press, but it’s interesting to see this idea reflected so literally through the design of the agency’s headquarters. This bold architectural statement would indicate the organisation is not at all concerned with public’s perception of its invasive activities.

Post 3, image 7
(Phillips 2016)

An image likely seen by many in the wake of census fail.  Echoing popular opinion that the census was doomed from the moment it went online, this image encapsulates the frustration felt by many as the website buckled under heavy load. Press mentions in the wake of this event were not positive and universally criticized the Australian Bureau of Statistics for this completely avoidable mistake.

Post 3, image 8
(Porritt 2016)

A lovely stock photo of the Australian Bureau of Statistics before the shit hit the fan in the wake of the 2016 census. This image doesn’t reveal a huge amount about the organization, aside from the modern façade it puts up. Instead this image is designed to provide context to the accompanying article which discusses in detail the changes made to the 2016 census.

Post 3, image 9.jpg
(Roberts 2012)

This is a generic stock photo designed to accompany an article about online privacy or hacker culture. The image itself is a clichéd interpretation of these topics, and highlights the misunderstanding perpetrated about online privacy in the popular media. This image would likely be found alongside shorter, minimally researched articles, where it is not commercially viable to commission a bespoke artwork to accompany the article.

Post 3, image 10.jpg
(Snowden & Huang 2016)

This is a computer rendering of a prototype iPhone case designed by former defense contractor turned internet privacy advocate Edward Snowden. The case is designed to monitor the device’s outgoing radio signals and alert the user if their device is compromised. The image and accompanying article are thought-provoking, as counter surveillance activities like this are not often covered in the popular press.

Reference list

Davidson, M. 2016, A.B.S MMXVI, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Fairey, S. 2007 Big Brother City, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

GCHQ 2013, Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security, The Guardian, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Hitz, C. 2016, Software as weaponry in a computer-connected world, The New York Times, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Hitz, C. n.d., Big Brother, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Ministry of Defence 2004, The Doughnut, the headquarters of the GCHQ, Wikipedia, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Phillips, L. 2016, Census website attacked by hackers, ABS claims, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Porritt, A. 2016, Census 2016: Australians who don’t complete form over privacy concerns face fines, The Guardian, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Roberts, G. 2012, Man sitting in a darkened room with a laptop and other computer equipment, Fortune, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.

Snowden, E. & Huang A. 2016, Introspection engine, WIRED, viewed 9 August 2016, <>.




POST 4: Identifying and collecting a design example

Post 4, image 1
CV Dazzle (Harvey 2010)

Adam Harvey is a conceptual artist and researcher based in Berlin. Over the past decade, Harvey has developed a number of designs in response to the rise of the surveillance state and the growing need for individuals to exert more control over their privacy. One of Harvey’s earliest designs addressing this issue was an anti-paparazzi device called Camoflash; a handbag designed to conceal users from flash photography. Camoflash worked by activating a bank of LEDs when a photographer’s flash was detected, over exposing their light sensor and ruining their photo (Harvey 2009). In addition to this, Harvey has also developed a type of camouflage to thwart facial recognition technology. Reminiscent of something David Bowie would wear, CV Dazzle is a system of hair and makeup alterations designed to modify the features targeted by facial detection software. By keeping users below the threshold of detection, CV Dazzle protects users from subsequent facial recognition programs that are often carried out in conjunction with facial detection (Harvey 2010).

Post 4, image 2
CV Dazzle (Harvey 2010)

However, Stealth Wear is perhaps Harvey’s most successful project to date. Stealth Wear is a fashion line designed to conceal the wearer from long wave infrared cameras, such as those typically found on surveillance drones (Harvey 2013). This concealment is achieved through the use of a silver-plated synthetic fabric that disperses the user’s body heat, making them all but invisible to aerial surveillance. Interestingly, the fashion line draws inspiration from traditional Islamic dress which was thought to provide a separation between man and God (Harvey 2013). In this instance, Harvey has reimagined the burqa and hijab as garments that provide a barrier between man and drone. Like many of Harvey’s projects Stealth Wear exploits a vulnerability within surveillance programs and makes it accessible through the vehicle of fashion (Maly 2013). Harvey’s specific focus on fashion is interesting as it has historically been seen as a non-conformist art form. In many ways this makes fashion the antithesis of mass surveillance which promotes conformity.

Reference list

Harvey, A. 2010, Camouflage from computer vision, viewed 21 August, <>.

Harvey, A. 2009, LED anti-paparazzi device, viewed 21 August, <>.

Harvey, A. 2013, Stealth wear ‘anti-drone’ fashion, viewed 21 August, <>.

Maly, T. 2013, Anti drone camouflage: What to wear in total surveillance, WIRED, viewed 21 August 2016, <>.

POST 2: Building your expertise using scholarly secondary sources

Pieterse, J. 2012, ‘Leaking Superpowers: Wikileaks and the contradictions of democracy’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 10, pp. 1909-1924.

Jan Nederveen Pieterse is a professor of global studies and sociology at the University of California. He has a number of books to his name as well as wealth of published articles dating as far back as 1973. In this article Pieterse reveals a bias in relation to transparency and democracy in global communication networks. This bias is primarily explored through the United States fluid views of internet freedom. In recent years the US has supported the use of the internet and social media in repressive regimes, spending as much as $70 million on stealth networks for political activists in Iran, North Korea, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. However, these values of openness and transparency seemingly did not apply to WikiLeaks when it released over 250,000 secret US embassy cables, with the secretary of state labelling the information as ‘stolen’. Ironically, the US routinely taps internet and phone networks across the globe for intelligence. This double standard is a key feature of hegemonic transparency; transparency that serves to protect the interests of those in power. WikiLeaks upsets this systems with a new wave of radical transparency designed to shift the balance of power away from governments. Pieterse account of this phenomena is similar to other sources in acknowledging the inequitable power that administrations have exercised over access to information. However, Pieterse is also careful to present WikiLeaks as potentially dangerous organization, especially to safety and security of informants and intelligence operatives overseas.

Zajacz, R. 2013, ‘Wikileaks and the problem of anonymity: A network control perspective’, Media Culture & Society, Vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 489-505.

Dr. Rita Zajacz is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa. She has published a number of articles studying the relationship between communications policy and international relations. Her work has appeared in a number of reputable publications including the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media and Media, Culture and Society. In this article, Zajacz investigates the power struggle between entities as they seek control over global communications infrastructure on both a tactical and structural level. The tactical level of network control refers to the struggle for power using the existing tools available, while the structural level refers to the ability to determine the rules, policies and values of the network itself. In this case, the article uses WikiLeaks as a case study of how these levels interact. WikiLeaks has revolutionized democracy, making it possible for civilians to exposure government corruption. This right to information is a structural threat to institutional power that the US government has tried to attack. On the tactical level they have denied web hosting services, frozen assets and brought criminal charges against those associated with the organization. On a structural level they have made attempts to remove anonymity from the internet through the introduction of new internet standards. This view of WikiLeaks as a disruptive force is well documented in mainstream media, but perhaps less well publicized in academic circles which are often slower to respond to new developments. Zajacz takes this mainstream view and provides a nuanced account of precisely how WikiLeaks challenges the status quo.

POST 1: Creating a data set using secondary sources

Ball, J., Borger, J. & Greenwald, G. 2013, Revealed: How US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security, The Guardian, viewed 2 August 2016, <>.

James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald are journalists working for The Guardian; a British based newspaper with a digital presence in both Australia and the United States. In this article the authors bring to light new revelations about the scope of secret US and UK internet surveillance programs from documents leaked to them by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Based on the highly sensitive nature of this material it is not surprising the article was overseen by The Guardian’s special projects editor, the world affairs editor and a columnist specializing in civil liberties and US national security. These journalists likely worked on the story based on their knowledge of global polices, as well as their discretion and judgement in releasing classified information potentially damaging to US and UK interests. As a result of this, the article is presented in a very measured tone with little editorializing. Instead, the article describes in detail the process used by US and UK spy agencies to undermine internet privacy, with limited analysis of the implications of their actions. Perhaps the authors thought this was self-evident, however a more likely scenario is that it was excluded to limit the newspaper’s legal exposure.

Greenberg, A. 2016, Snowden designs a device to warn if your iPhone’s radios are snitching, WIRED, viewed 2 August 2016, <>.

Andy Greenberg is senior writer for WIRED; a print and online magazine reporting on how emerging technologies affect the economy, culture and politics. Greenberg has a number of published articles under his belt investigating online privacy, data surveillance and data security. In this article Greenberg looks at a recent announcement from Edward Snowden about a case-like device he has developed for the iPhone 6 that monitors the device’s outgoing radio signals. This is important, as it provides a much more trustworthy method of knowing when the phone’s radios are off than airplane mode, which hackers have shown can be spoofed. Greenberg goes onto incorporate a number of quotes from Snowden about the usefulness of such a device, claiming it would be an invaluable tool for journalists and activists in repressive regimes. In addition to quotes from the press release, WIRED was also granted exclusive access to discuss the device with Snowden via video call. Despite numerous quotes from Snowden and his business partner, Andrew Huang, the article makes no attempt to explore the other side of the government surveillance debate. However, in this instance it is not necessary as the article is dedicated to Snowden and his new venture, not the broader implications of data surveillance.

Leigh, D. 2010, US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomatic crisis, The Guardian, viewed 2 August 2016, <>.

David Leigh is The Guardian’s investigations executive editor, responsible for a number of high profile stories on crime and corruption in both the private and public sectors. In this article, Leigh examines the key claims from over 250,000 classified United States embassy cables supplied to them by WikiLeaks. Based on the highly sensitive nature of this material it is not surprising the article was written by such a senior figure within the organization. Owing to this, the article also adopts a very straight forward, factual writing style designed to limit the newspaper’s exposure should any of the governments targeted in the leak seek legal recourse. Interestingly the article touches on how this information was released to the public in the first place, explaining the low levels of security clearance required to access the database of secure embassy cables. Leigh goes onto clarify that the decision to make this information readily available was made in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent investigation, which found systematic failures in government intelligence sharing. Analyzing this revelation rather than the leak itself provides readers with a more nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by governments in collecting, storing and effectively using data to meet national security objectives.

Martin, P. 2016, The Bureau of Statistics endangers the census by asking for names, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 August 2016, <>.

Peter Martin is the economics editor for The Age; a Melbourne based newspaper with ties to Fairfax media’s sister paper The Sydney Morning Herald. Although this is his only article directly examining the census, Martin has a large back catalogue of articles addressing finance and politics, making him more than qualified to explore the privacy concerns surrounding the 2016 Census. The article itself is presented in a conversational tone designed to draw in the uninitiated. However, this conversational tone soon shifts to a more editorial stance via the inclusion of a number of quotes from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Martin takes these claims and presents them alongside facts and figures to question the Bureau’s assertion that names will be stored and used in a secure manner. Although much of the article is dedicated to questioning the decision to store names, Martin does concede that there a number of benefits to recording names in the Census, and goes onto ponder why the Bureau has been unable to effectively communicate this to the general public. Martin’s position on this issue is fair and well-reasoned given the recent spate of high profile stories surrounding government surveillance and large scale data theft.

Zappone, C. 2016, DNC leak: Russia better at information war now than during the cold war, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 August 2016, <>.

Chris Zappone is the foreign desk news editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. In this article Zappone, investigates the recent Democratic National Convention hacking scandal and looks at the global political implications of the attack as revelations about Russia’s involvement come to light. Zappone is well versed in US politics with a large catalogue of published articles to his name, however this is first article specifically addressing data security. While information about the event is limited owing to the covert nature of the attack, Zappone was able to get a number of quotes from reliable sources, including a strategist from a non-profit think tank and a former US Army intelligence officer. As a result of this, the article takes a more opinion based tone. Despite this, these sources were able to shed some light on the increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks, as well as how Russia has been utilizing advanced information warfare strategies to systematically undermine western interests. The article goes onto investigate how these attacks can be managed in the future, as well as the problems associated with responding to state spread propaganda online. This view that restrictions on free speech would be catastrophic for the web are widely held views amongst many commentators and point towards broader problems with combating state sponsored misinformation online.