Watch This! Surveillance, Security, and Organizing

Surveillance is nothing new; and neither is creative, resilient resistance to its impacts. "Watch This!” is a thematic track at the 16th annual Allied Media Conference that will be curated to bridge the gaps between policy, technology, and social justice/human rights communities – all of which are involved in their own, often siloed conversations about surveillance. We aim to locate recent conversations about NSA surveillance in the broader context of social movements, focusing on the experiences of poor people, communities of color, other marginalized groups, and political organizers in these communities. We will explore safety and security from a holistic approach, speak frankly about our strengths, needs, and concerns and work hands on.

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While the illicit and illegal survey by states of political activity is nothing new, what is rather novel is the unprecedented access to the communications, whereabouts and habits of every one of us who use computers and mobile devices connected to the internet.

Revelations about US/NSA surveillance have particular implications for social movements, especially poor people, communities of color and marginalised groups. We know that we need not only digital trickery, like circumvention and obfuscation, but we also must draw from the trove of analog solutions that have strengthened our communities and our movements throughout history.

For the 16th annual Allied Media Conference (AMC), held each year in Detroit, APC is working with partners based in the US to reach organisations and activists interested in the transformative potential of today’s media and technologies. Together we are organising a programming track on digital security and surveillance called “Watch This!”.

“Watch This!” is designed to bridge knowledge gaps between policy and technology on the one hand and social justice and human rights communities on the other. Additionally, we want social justice and human rights communities to discuss amongst one another their best practices and principled considerations regarding online security. Session proposals for the AMC are encouraged to explore holistic approaches to safety and security, present best practices, or provide hands-on workshops.

In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

It is essential that youth of color, queer activists and grassroots activists be engaged in discussion about modern-day surveillance in the context of historical surveillance, pre-internet, and the strategies to mitigate its harm.

Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?

Organizations and individual activists engaged in work that increases the capacity of grassroots social justice work in the United States, namely serving communities of color and queer communities. The AMC has, for 16 years, been the premier convergence for activist youth and DIY culture in the US. With the multitude of intersectional solidarity at the AMC, it is the perfect venue to shift the national frame of the real human impacts of surveillance back to where surveillance has always existed: on queer, poor communities and communities of color.

What progress have you made so far?

The track has been organised by a small affinity group of activists from the Open Technology Institute (OTI), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and MIT's Codesign Studio. More than two dozen sessions were submitted to the track. We want to make sure we can bring low-income participants to this event, follow up in the long term with additional activities organized between AMC participants through 2015's event.

What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?

We want to see 9-10 sessions at the AMC that focus on surveillance that are lead by queer activists, youth of colour, women and grassroots organizations. We want to hold follow up activities with participants in these sessions to continue building on the learnings and discussion that will be generated from the AMC.

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

Emi Kane - INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, community organizer
Becky Hurwitz - MIT Codesign Studio facilitator, community activist
Seeta Gangadharan - OTI, security and technology expert, community activist
Alfredo Lopez - May First/People Link founder, community organizer
Mallory Knodel - APC communications manager and security expert.


Detroit, Michigan, US


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