Accepted Paper:

Inverting the global internet surveillance infrastructure with IXmaps, the crowd-sourced mapping tool  


Andrew Clement (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

This talk will reflect on 8 years of experience with, an internet mapping platform designed to render state surveillance more transparent and democratically accountable, in light of such STS themes as: infrastructural inversion; enrolling and translating actors; and making things public.

Paper long abstract:

Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers have revealed the global reach and remarkable intensity of the mass surveillance infrastructure the National Security Agency (NSA) and its Five Eyes security alliance partners have embedded within the internet core. An affront to civil liberties, how can such ubiquitous but hidden and potentially threatening surveillance be made more public in ways that foster resistance and democratic reform?

The interactive mapping project has taken up this challenge since 2009 by developing a web platform for displaying the routes individuals' internet communication follow and where they pass through sites of suspected Five Eyes surveillance. Through crowd-sourcing, over 1,000 individuals from around the world have contributed five hundred thousand traceroutes, with over half passing through US cities where the NSA is suspected of conducting surveillance operations.

On the policy front, IXmaps has collaborated with a national internet registration authority (CIRA) to promote network sovereignty as well as a media democracy campaigning organization (Openmedia) to advance awareness of on-line privacy and surveillance issues. IXmaps data has also provided evidence in two court cases that challenge NSA surveillance programs.

This talk will reflect on the IXmaps experience from an STS perspective, discussing successes and shortcomings in light of such themes as: infrastructural inversion; enrolling and translating actors, human and otherwise; and making things public.

Panel C23
STS meet ICT: politics and the collaborative turn in STS