EFF Unveils VR Tool To Spot Surveillance Devices

The Electronic Frontier Foundation launch a VR experience to help users identify the many ways that they can be spied on.

Statistics say that the average American citizen can be caught on camera more than 75 times in a day. CCTV cameras are meant to be there to keep people safe from theft and violent crime. However, as George Orwell noted in his famous novel 1984, it is all too easy for these surveillance devices to becomes tools of oppression. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have launched a virtual reality (VR) experience designed to teach people how to spot surveillance technologies.

Spot the Surveillance has been designed to work with a VR headset, but can also work in a standard web browser. The user is placed in a San Francisco street scene, where a young person is being confronted by police. The user is challenged to identify all the surveillance tools in use.

The surveillance devices that can be found during the 10 minute VR experience include a body camera, an automated license plate reader, a drone, a mobile biometric device and a pan-tilt-zoom camera. The EFF have drawn on several years of research as part of its Street-Level Surveillance Project, which was created to catalogue how technology can be used and abused by law enforcement.

“We are living in an age of surveillance, where hard-to-spot cameras capture our faces and our license plates, drones in the sky videotape our streets, and police carry mobile biometric devices to scan people’s fingerprints,” said EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass. “We made our ‘Spot the Surveillance’ VR tool to help people recognize these spying technologies around them and understand what their capabilities are.”

“One of our goals at EFF is to experiment with how emerging online technologies can help bring about awareness and change,” said EFF Web Developer Laura Schatzkin, who coded the project. “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.”

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The Spot the Surveillance VR experience can be found on the EFF website. For future coverage on new VR content, keep checking back with VRFocus.

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