Blacknoise: Low-fi Lightweight Steganography in Service of Free Speech

Posted by ccarlon on Oct 13, 2011
Blacknoise: Low-fi Lightweight Steganography in Service of Free Speech data sheet 1039 Views
Paik, Michael
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Censorship of communications is a widespread, current practice in various countries with repressive governments in order to prevent or restrict speech; political speech in particular. In many cases state-run telecommunications agencies including those providing internet and phone service, actively filter content or disconnect users in defense of incumbents in the face of widespread criticism by citizens.

In this paper I present Blacknoise, a system which uses commodity low-cost mobile telephones equipped with cameras, and takes advantage of their lowfidelity, noisy sensors in order to enable embedding of arbitrary text payloads into the images they produce. These images can then be disseminated via MMS, Bluetooth, or posting on the Internet, without requiring a separate digital camera or computer to perform processing.

Evaluating Security Apps

Posted by MelissaLoudon on Sep 22, 2011

Particularly for smartphones, there are many apps that promise improved privacy and security for your mobile communications. Like all apps, some are very good, but other are poorly written or overpriced, and may even be malicious. This article will help you evaluate whether you should trust their promises.

Before You Start

Security apps are most useful as part of a coherent security policy covering all your mobile communications. The Mobile Risk Assessment Primer will help you complete an inventory of mobile communications risks, and decide which are most important and most feasible to mitigate.

Once you’ve completed a risk assessment, it’s important to search broadly for security apps. MobileActive is in the process of reviewing many of these from our current list of security apps, but the mobile security landscape changes quickly. Ask friends and colleagues, read about your specific security need online, and search your device’s app marketplace. Once you’ve identified as many options as possible, it’s time to start evaluating your security apps.

Will It Work on Your Phone?

As with computer software, some mobile apps are built to work on one platform - Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, Java - and may not work on others. There may be other requirements too, such as particular phone models. Make sure the apps you have chosen are all going to work on your device.

Also consider how you will actually get the app - can it be downloaded from a web link that you open on your phone, or can you get it from an app marketplace? Some apps can also be downloaded to a PC and transferred via bluetooth or a data cable. This step sounds obvious, but it can be tricky when you don’t have stable Internet access on your phone or aren’t used to the app install process.

Safer Facebook

Posted by SaferMobile on Aug 09, 2011
Safer Facebook data sheet 6101 Views
Melissa Loudon

Facebook has more than 500 million users, half of which access the site through their mobile phone. Being able to communicate your message to an audience this large is exceptionally valuable. At the same time, your activities on the site generate very detailed information about you and your networks. If you are concerned about surveillance, this information can put you at risk. This how-to explains what those risks are and how to use Facebook on your mobile device more securely. 

Facebook has more 500 million users, half of which access the site through their mobile phones. Being able to communicate your message to an audience this large is exceptionally valuable. At the same time your activities on the site generate very detailed information about you and your networks. If you are concerned about surveillance, this information can put you at risk.

Assess Your Facebook Mobile Risks

Like Twitter, Facebook is a way to get your messages to a potentially large audience. It is not a secure method of communication for sensitive information.

This article offers advice about how to mitigate risks when using Facebook as a dissemination and organizing tool. In particular, we consider the following risks:

  • The risk that your public activities on Facebook reveal compromising information about you or your networks - for example, revealing the identity of supporters or identifying people who were present at a particular event.
  • The risk of your private information being revealed to a third party without your consent.
  • The risk that your account details (username and password) are discovered, and that someone may impersonate you.
  • The risk of your account being deleted or suspended.
  • The risk that Facebook is blocked or becomes inaccessible.

in general, you should only use Facebook to share information that you consider public. Public information can be freely distributed by you, your organization, and your supporters, without any risk to individuals or organizational operations. In communicating public information, you can send and receive this information without taking any precautions.

Mobile Africa Report 2011: Regional Hubs of Excellence and Innovation

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Apr 04, 2011
Mobile Africa Report 2011: Regional Hubs of Excellence and Innovation data sheet 2012 Views
Rao, Madanmohan
Publication Date: 
Mar 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

According to industry estimates, there are more than 500 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa now, up from 246 million in 2008. In 2000, the number of mobile phones first exceeded that of fixed telephones. Africans can accelerate development by skipping less efficient technologies and moving directly to more advanced ones.

The telecommunications sector continues to attract a flurry of public and private investment from foreign sources and local banks, but the investment should be in software and services, not just cabling infrastructure.

ICTs and Political Activism - a Zimbabwean Experience

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Mar 08, 2011
ICTs and Political Activism - a Zimbabwean Experience data sheet 1644 Views
Burrell, Brenda
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

To counter the Zimbabwean government’s tight grip over the traditional media, activists integrated old fashioned tactics of leaflets, graffiti, and small covert meetings with electronic media: short wave radio, pocket sized video cameras, digital cameras, fax machines, the Internet and email.

An early adopter of this mix of ICTs was, a locally based non-profit which became an important aggregator of civic and human rights information on Zimbabwe. Its free online archive, established in 2001, offered articles, reports, documents and interviews with much of the information sourced from local civic organisations and international watch dogs. Its electronic NGO directory made civil society organisations accessible at a time when contact details were extremely fluid. Its email newsletter mailing list kept thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans regularly informed of events, opportunities and newly added resources to the web site. And its early adoption of SMS proved crucial to keeping Zimbabweans informed during the critical 2008 elections.

Mobiles + Art + Activism: Our Last Tech Salon

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 29, 2010

Missed our last Mobile Tech Salon? Have no fear! We focused on how artists and activists using mobiles in their work: Urban Speaker broadcasts phone calls in public spaces over a loudspeaker; TXTual Healing and SMS Slingshot plaster text messages on walls; Pathways to Housing encourages people on the street to interact with a light projection via text; and Amphibious Architecture allows people to send text messages to and receive messages from animals in the rivers surrounding New York City. Watch the video below to get a taste of the artists' presentations:

The event was a great way to explore how mobiles can bring a new level of interactivity to art, and how art can be used to inspire activism. Presenters remarked on how the ubiquity of mobile devices make them ideal for encouraging people to interact with their surroundings. If you want to learn more about these projects, check out our posts on TXTual Healing, Amphibious Architecture and Pathways to Housing here, or watch an interview with Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena (creator of the Urban Speaker) here. Urban Collective, creators of the SMS Slingshot couldn't join us in person for the tech salon, but check out a video of their presentation here.

Thanks to for hosting us in their space, and thanks to the artists for showing their work!

Mobiles + Art + Activism: Our Last Tech Salon data sheet 2053 Views
Countries: United States

December Tech Salon in New York: Mobiles + Art + Activism

Posted by anoushrima on Nov 20, 2010

Have you ever texted a fish? Or graffitied a wall with your mobile?

Thanks to the ever-present mobile devices and connectivity, artists and activists are experimenting with how we interact with each other, organize ourselves, and our surroundings. 

We've written about interactive texts messages in activism before, and are very excited to devote our December Tech Salon to how artists and activists use mobile phones for expression.

RSVP here to join us on Thursday December 9th for "Mobiles + Art + Activism": an evening of conversation with artists, and live demos & exhibits of mobile art projects exploring public spaces, calls to action, crowd engagement and participation.

Projects & artists to be showcased include:

Mobile (In)Security Redux: Comparing the Tools

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 20, 2010

We have been very keen on exposing the security issues related to mobile communications for activists in insecure environments. To that end we have, to date, produced a number of how-to guides that evaluate some of the tools available.

A little while ago, we added a matrix of available tools that compares existing applications for secure communications more systematically. So, here is the line-up of mobile security resources on MobileActive for easy reference:

We will continue to pay close attention to this space as there are not enough tools and resources yet for activists and journalists to communicate securely via mobile. If you are aware of other projects or resources, please add a comment!

Photo courtesy: rafeblandford via flickr

Networked Activism

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jun 29, 2010
Networked Activism data sheet 1783 Views
Land, Molly Beutz
Publication Date: 
Aug 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The same technologies that groups of ordinary citizens are using to write operating systems and encyclopedias are fostering a quiet revolution in another area - social activism. On websites such as and Wikipedia, citizens are forming groups to report on human rights violations and organize email writing campaigns, activities formerly the prerogative of professionals. This article considers whether the participatory potential of technology can be used to mobilize ordinary citizens in the work of human rights advocacy.

Existing online advocacy efforts reveal a de facto inverse relationship between broad mobilization and deep participation. Large groups mobilize many individuals, but each of those individuals has only a limited ability to participate in decisions about the group’s goals or methods. Thus, although we currently have the tools necessary for individuals to engage in advocacy without the need for professional organizations, we are still far from realizing an ideal of fully decentralized, user-generated activism.

Drawing on the insights of network theory, the article proposes a model of “networked activism” that would help ensure both deep participation and broad mobilization by encouraging the formation of highly participatory small groups while providing opportunities for those small groups to connect with one another. Drawing on a series of interviews with human rights and other civil society organizations, the article recommends specific design elements that might foster a model of networked activism. The article concludes that although online activism is unlikely to replace some of the functions served by human rights organizations, efforts to create synergies between traditional and online efforts have the potential to provide avenues for real, meaningful, and effective citizen participation in human rights advocacy.

A Guide to Mobile Security for Citizen Journalists

Posted by MelissaLoudon on Mar 01, 2010
A Guide to Mobile Security for Citizen Journalists data sheet 15114 Views
Melissa Loudon

Citizen journalism, and with it the rise of alternative media voices, is one of the most exciting possibilities for mobile phones in activism.

Mobile phones are used to compose stories, capture multi-media evidence and disseminate content to local and international audiences. This can be accomplished extremely quickly, making mobile media tools attractive to citizens and journalists covering rapidly unfolding events such as protests or political or other crises. The rise of mobiles has also helped extend citizen journalism into transient, poor or otherwise disconnected communities.

However, for those working under repressive regimes, citizen journalism can be a double-edged sword. Anything you create and disseminate can be used against you, whether through the legal system or in other more sinister forms of suppression.

This guide for Mobile Security gives an overview and provides recommendations for secure browsing, secure content uploading, and using "throw-away phones" for organizing and communications. We note that secure solutions for mobile communications are currently lacking, however!


Citizen journalism, and with it the rise of alternative media voices, is one of the most exciting possibilities for mobile phones in activism.

Mobile Surveillance and How to Avoid it: A new primer from

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 11, 2008

In our ongoing and ever-expanding series of how-to resources for NGOs and grassroots organizations using mobile technology in their work, we are releasing a new primer on "Mobile Surveillance."  Our reviewer, Melissa Loudon, gives an overview of mobile surveillance risks and tips and tools on how to prevent surveillance for secure communications.

Mobile Warriors: Costa Rican Youth, Mobile Phones and Social Change

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Oct 04, 2008

This article was written by Lisa Campbell of the Youth Action Network and is reprinted here with permission.  Lisa's research and articles are on her blog Mobile Revolutions.

Globally 1.5 billion people have access to televisions, and 1 billion to the Internet; yet overall the most actively used electronic gadget is the mobile phone, with over 3 billion users worldwide. Reaching the 4 billion mark before the end of 2008, that equals to approximately one cell phone for every two human beings. Under 30-years in existence, cell phones are one of the most rapid developing technology the world has ever known. According to Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that it is a viable business opportunity.”  According to Touré, “Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs.”

Mobile phones are the first telecommunications technology to be more popular in developing nations, than their developed counterparts, far outnumbering internet coverage (Zuckerman 2007). More and more people are using their phones to access the internet instead of computers.  Soon there will be more cell phone users than literate people on the planet. This signifies a shift into a new age of digital literacy, where avatars, emoticons, pictures, sounds and videos often hold more power than names and numbers.

Economists around the world are hailing cell phones as the solution for ICT development and a ray of hope in bridging the digital divide.

Text Message Service for Activists Subpoenaed by New York City

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 31, 2008

TxtMob, a group SMS service and its creator, Tad Hirsch, a long-time MobileActive colleague, have ben subpoenaed by the city of New York to turn over information about TxtMob users and activists who participated in the 2004 protests against the Republican National Convention there.

In a blow to privacy and a chilling development to activists, the city, involved in a law suit, has requested that information about text messages, phone numbers, and other personal information is turned over to the city. Support is needed, so please go to TxtMob and donate.

It's worth quoting this New York Times article in its entirety:

New Tactics Discussion: Using Mobile Phones in Action

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 17, 2007

New Tactics, a community for people committed to human rights, is sponsoring a virtual discussion on "Using Mobile Phones in Action" from November 28 to December 4. is partnering with New Tactics and is also participating in this online conversation. We all believe that "strategic and tactical thinking, long used by business and military strategists, is an effective means for the human rights movement to expand options and possibilities of what can be done." The discussion will focus on tactics for activism using mobile phones.

Mobile phones and new media in pro-Tibet protests

Posted by John.L.German on Aug 11, 2007

Of the hundreds of mainstream-media news stories around the world on Wednesday August 8, 2007, about the pro-Tibet protest in China this week, the one copied below focused on the role of information and communication technologies in a compelling, vivid, and memorable way.

I hope that readers will know where this story could be taken and how it could be highlighted and used to maximum effect as an example of outstanding innovative use of free new-media tools to achieve social change -- feel free to do that, or let me know what should be done.