Anti-Surveillance Activists Take a Page From the NSA’s Playbook

Members of “We Are Always Listening” record public conversations, and post them online to protest government spying.

Image from the We Are Always Listening website.

An anonymous group of activists in New York surrepticiously placed tape recorders around the city and posted the recordings online, on a site called We Are Always Listening. The recordings feature conversations between unassuming subjects in public places such as parks, restaurants, and cafes. The project aims a critical eye at the NSA phone spying program, which a US appeals court recently deemed illegal.

“Eavesdropping on the population has revealed many saying ‘I’m not doing anything wrong so who cares if the NSA tracks what I say and do?’” they write on the site. “Citizens don’t seem to mind this monitoring, so we’re hiding recorders in public places in hopes of gathering information to help win the war on terror. We've started with NYC as a pilot program, but hope to roll the initiative out all across The Homeland.”

Their website is spare, but a link labelled “Angry?” takes users to an ACLU petition demanding the end of the Patriot Act’s Section 215, which is the section the NSA cites to justify its overarching surveillance program. The ACLU, however, told Wired that they have nothing to do with the project.