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Viral Dissonance



ScareMail by Ben Grosser


Ben Grosser, 2013

Originally part of PRISM Breakup, a series of art and technology events at Eyebeam (New York) in October 2013, ScareMail is a web browser extension that makes everyday email messages appear “scary” to disrupt the controversial surveillance of citizens and visitors by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. ScareMail attaches a signature to email message sent through Google’s Gmail in the form of an algorithmically generated narrative containing a collection of probable NSA search terms. “This ‘story’, as Grosser explains, “acts as a trap for NSA programs like PRISM and XKeyscore, forcing them to look at nonsense. Each email’s story is unique in an attempt to avoid automated filtering by NSA search systems.” ScareMail invites us to dare to scare, as well as to encourage us to think about the scary acts of fingerprinting by surveillance agencies that take place constantly.

Ben Grosser (United States) creates interactive experiences, machines, and systems that explore the cultural, social, and political implications of software. He describes his work as making “the familiar unfamiliar, revealing the ways that software prescribes our behavior and thus, how it changes who we are.” His work has been featured in Wired, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Neural, De Standaard, HP/De Tijd, and Der Spiegel.