Cantheyseemydick.com is a crotch-centric way to explain government surveillance
image via (cc) flickr user sharynmorrow
There is a fundamental tension within the national dialog regarding government surveillance: To accurately and adequately address many of the specific National Security Agency programs revealed as part of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s now-(in)famous document leaks, a person would need years of advanced expertise in some of the most complex information architecture ever assembled. Put simply, while the implications and effects of the now-public NSA surveillance programs can and should be debated by everyone they affect, the technical specifics therein are a bridge too far for many. When it comes to our privacy—one of the defining issues of the digital age—most people simply lack the requisite vocabulary to fully explore the extraordinarily complex features of an issue for which technical complexity is a sin-qua-non.
It’s that inherent tension which Last Week Tonight host John Oliver addressed during his surprise (as in, even Oliver seemed surprised it was happening) sit down with Edward Snowden, himself. There, the comedian and the whistleblower/leaker/hero/traitor discussed the challenge of holding a substantive debate on a subject for which the very complexities that render it important also render it inaccessible to many. Oliver, to his credit, did not go easy on Snowden, posing tough questions regarding the moral implications of leaking state secrets, and asking how to weigh the benefits of the programs exposed against their implied costs. Then, in an effort to frame the debate over government surveilance and privacy in terms most people, regardless of technical expertise, can understand, Oliver zeroed in on what seems, at this point, to be a universal truth:
People absolutely do not want the government looking at their dick pics.
Given the visceral reaction against governmental overreach into the field of dick pics, web designer and software engineer Oliver Lacan this week unleashed upon the world cantheyseemydick.com. The site is a simple companion to Oliver and Snowden’s conversation, and outlines the various NSA programs and methods by which government agents and contractors can legally see that dick pic you just sent or received. Lacan, the site explains “cares about security and privacy and the freedom for everyone to send dick pictures as long as the recipient is cool with it.”
image via (cc) flickr user mattysflicks
Among the various dick pic pick-up programs are things like Executive Order 12333 (“Dick smuggling”: Data from your emailed dick pic is shuffled across servers, some outside of the United States, where they’re nabbed by the NSA) and Section 215 (“Dick metadata”: The government can’t see your dick, but they know who you’ve been sending it to/receiving it from). The full list is available at the site, with each entry linking to further information about the order, initiative, or program in question. Lacan also encourages visitors to petition their elected officials to rein in the Patriot Act, from which most of these dick pic scenarios stem.
All told, cantheyseemydick.com is hilarious and relatable reminder (albeit a crude one) that while the specifics of both the laws and technologies at question here may be particularly obtuse, the real-world implications of government surveillance could end up hitting us all below the belt.