Privacy Law

Artists say 'Conversnitch' lamp planted at McDonald's posts public chatter on Twitter

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Concerned about a lack of privacy in daily life, two adjunct professors who consider themselves artists are, paradoxically, trying to focus attention on the issue by planting a secret recording device in public locations.

Kyle McDonald and Brian House created the so-called Conversnitch, which looks like a lamp and has been wired to pick up audio and post excerpts of transcribed conversations to its @conversnitch Twitter account.

They are reluctant to say where they’ve put it, for fear of legal issues: “We recognize that this device can be used in an illegal way, and we will not admit to using it in that way,” McDonald says. “It has potentially been deployed in various places.”

But Wired’s Threat Level blog reports that McDonald posted a online video showing the seeming lamp being placed by two people whose faces are obscured at a McDonald’s in New York, in a bank lobby, in a library, on a bedroom desk and inside a Washington Square Park lamppost in Manhattan.

McDonald, 28, teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts; and Brian House, 34, teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.

“You can’t make this stuff up anymore,” McDonald tells Threat Level. “Here were Brian and I trying to make something kind of scary, something that makes you wonder if someone’s watching you all the time. And then [Edward] Snowden says, ‘They are.’”

Hat tip: The Independent.

Related coverage: “Tools for lawyers worried that NSA is eavesdropping on their confidential conversations” “Court’s secret ‘Raw Take’ order allowed sharing of personal information by intelligence agencies” “ABA asks NSA to explain how intelligence agency deals with attorney-client privilege”

The Nation: “Has the NSA Wiretapping Violated Attorney-Client Privilege?”

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