Activists have placed hidden tape recorders throughout New York City to protest NSA surveillance and the Patriot Act.
The recently announced campaign, entitled “We Are Always Listening,” is currently collecting private conversations in an attempt to discredit the “nothing to hide” narrative espoused by many Americans.
“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?'” the group’s website states. “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.”
Video provided exclusively to WIRED by the group shows a tape recorder, complete with a “PROPERTY OF NSA” stamp, being placed under a table at an unknown restaurant.
Remaining anonymous for obvious legal reasons, the group says it plans to expand the pilot program to other states.
“We’ve started with NYC as a pilot program, but hope to roll the initiative out all across The Homeland,” the site notes.
Some of the collected audio recordings, which have been posted online, detail the intimate conversations of multiple unsuspecting New York residents.
“A woman at a gym tells her friend she pays rent higher than $2,000 a month. An ex-Microsoft employee describes his work as an artist to a woman he’s interviewing to be his assistant—he makes paintings and body casts, as well as something to do with infrared light that’s hard to discern from his foreign accent,” writes WIRED’s Andy Greenberg. “Another man describes his gay lover’s unusual sexual fetish, which involves engaging in fake fistfights, ‘like we were doing a scene from Batman Returns.'”
The site encourages those “angry” about surveillance to contact Congress as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows bulk domestic metadata collection, reaches expiration on June 1.
As the group will likely prove in the coming weeks, most Americans with “nothing to hide” often change their tune after a breach of privacy. Somewhat similar pranks conducted in the wake of former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations have also highlighted Americans sudden reversal on spying when confronted with a microphone or camera.