The BlackWatch App: Shining a Light on the Censored Internet
The Black Watch App is an all-in-one, easy-to-use, mobile application (App) that will collect, analyze, and visualize censorship data in real time. The aim of the App is to raise awareness of censorship and surveillance through a fun and intuitive interface that gives the ordinary user a rich, data-driven experience. It is designed for Internet users globally, but particularly those living in information restrictive environments. It empowers the average internet user, by allowing them to test for the accessibility of any website in real time on mobile networks. Not only does this provide a view on to their own censorship landscape, but it also contributes to a crowd-sourced documentation of global censorship patterns.
SecDev Analytics Dashboard providing a real time view of internet connectivity and content accessibility in Syria.
SecDev wants to democratize access to information on censorship and surveillance, making it available to ordinary users in an intuitive, informative and fun to use way. Our aim is to grow awareness of and access to censorship and surveillance patterns, informing researchers, advocates, and ordinary citizens. We believe in the power of big data, and the power of harnessing ordinary users to generate data.
To do so, we will build an all-in-one, easy-to-use, mobile device-based application (App) that will collect, analyze, and visualize censorship data in real time. The proposed App will be built on SecDev’s tested and proven Black Watch global Internet surveillance monitoring and visualization system currently in operation.
The proposed Black Watch App will be an Android based App. Through the App, the user will contribute to a SETI-at-Home[i] like global testing effort, and benefit from a real time view of censorship and surveillance based upon the network to which their device is connected. Features will include:
- Real-time and historical view of censorship patterns of the network to which the user is attached;
- Integration with third-party tools/sites like HERDICT;[ii]
- Instant access to additional research (ONI, OONI, EFF);[iii]
- Aggregated news feeds pertaining to the relevant network; and
- Security events occurring in the user’s proximate area.
The App will be sleek, easy-to-use, intuitive and multilingual. It will be built and optimized for mobile devices. At present, there are 2.1 billion mobile data subscriptions worldwide. This will increase to 4 billion over the next 2 years. The growth will be in the developing world. The App will tie into the Black Watch global infrastructure currently operational in 90 countries and which has generated millions of data points revealing patterns of global censorship. But this is just the beginning. Each App will generate and contribute data to the global pool. The number of data points will grow exponentially creating a vast global database of censorship and surveillance events.
Currently, Internet censorship monitoring requires specialized tools, does not support automated testing, and in general, is focused on the needs of technical researchers and the technology community. Data is difficult to generate, and access is limited to research and advocates with sufficient technical knowledge to interpret the results. At present there is no mobile App that can create, analyze and visualize censorship and surveillance data at scale. Moreover, there is no application that is geared towards average users.
[ii] HERDICT, http://www.herdict.org/
[iii] Open Net Initiative, https://opennet.net/Setia-at-home, Open Observatory of Network Interface, https://ooni.torproject.org/, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org/
In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.
The SecDev Group 's Black Watch App will be an all-in-one, easy-to-use, mobile device-based application (App) that will collect, analyze, and visualize censorship data in real time, thereby empowering internet users living in information restrictive environments, while documenting global censorship patterns.
Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?
The Black Watch App will revolutionize how we generate and access data on global Internet surveillance and censorship. It will contribute to an informed global dialogue and empower people through data. Our aim is to grow awareness of and access to censorship and surveillance patterns, informing broadcasters, journalists, researchers, advocates, and ordinary citizens. We believe in the power of big data, and the power of harnessing ordinary users to generate data.
What progress have you made so far?
The proposed App will be built on SecDev’s tested and proven Black Watch global Internet surveillance monitoring and visualization system currently in operation. The Black Watch project draws on proven best practice, and boasts a distributed, automated, and dynamic global testing network designed for fixed-line networks. The data populates a dedicated Black Watch analytic dashboard and censorship map.
What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?
A successful outcome for our project would be the development and test deployment of a Black Watch mobile application for Android OS. A field-test among our established networks of researchers that live under censorship regimes would show proof of concept and solicit user feedback to improve usability.
Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?
The SecDev Group has a track record of conducting high-impact digital security and safety activities in complex and acutely hostile environments, and its principals are thought-leaders in the areas of online censorship, circumvention, secure communication, and surveillance.
SecDev Cyber, a unit within The SecDev Group, is an accomplished team of software developers and cyber security experts. SecDev Cyber is an industry trendsetter in the field of cyber security and intelligence fusion. We create and develop advanced solutions, toolsets, and intelligence feeds for clients that include governments, corporations and civil society groups, including those operating in complex and hostile environments.
Rafal Rohozinski is the founder and CEO of The SecDev Group, as well as co-founder and former CEO of Psiphon Inc. He is a recognized thought leader on cyberspace development, security and policy. His work experience spans two decades and 37 countries, including conflict zones in the CIS, the Middle East and Africa. He was a co-founder and principal investigator of the OpenNet Initiative and the Information Warfare Monitor, and author and contributor to numerous books, articles, chapters and studies on Internet development, cyber security, cyber espionage and cyber warfare.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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