To make it easier for everyone to recognize surveillance “in the wild,” EFF is fighting back with Spot the Surveillance, a virtual reality (VR) experience that teaches people how to identify the various spying technologies that police may deploy in communities. And with a major update to the software released today, spotting the surveillance has gotten even easier!

After demonstrating the app to nearly 500 users in person, many of whom offered feedback and suggestions, today we’re releasing Spot the Surveillance v 1.2. The latest version brings with it several enhancements and fixes based on that feedback and additional accessibility testing (Spot the Surveillance was created with accessibility in mind, so is entirely gaze-based for people with mobility challenges, and audio is also used to assist low-vision users.) This version also includes upgraded code logic and performance thanks to the Mozilla A-frame team.

New “Easy Mode” Helps You Spot the Surveillance

Police surveillance technology is often hard to find. Automated license plate readers can be subtly attached to the top of police cars, cameras can be intentionally hidden inside of black domes, and biometric scanners can be inside cases within police officer’s tool-belts. We’ve tried to represent this accurately in Spot the Surveillance, to give users a realistic sense of what to look for when they’re out in the world. But to ensure that you can locate all of the devices, we’ve added a new “Easy Mode” that places circular highlights around the devices. 

An image of the spot the surveillance entrance screen. The screen contains a "GET STARTED" button and a button below that which says "TURN ON EASY MODE". This gif shows the cursor hovering over "TURN ON EASY MODE" until it is highlighted.

To turn on EASY MODE, move the cursor over the "Turn on EASY MODE before starting" button until it is highlighted. Then, start as usual by moving the cursor over "Get Started". Once you do so, surveillance devices will be highlighted, to make spotting them simpler.

Whether you’ve played before and were having trouble locating that particularly troublesome telephone pole-mounted surveillance camera, you want to complete a speedrun, or you’d like to try out the app for the first time, you can now turn on Easy Mode with the flip of a switch. (Just don’t skip the informational dialogs that describe how the surveillance devices work!)

This is an image from the spot the surveillance application. There is a trash can with two white circles around it.

With EASY MODE on, the surveillance devices will be highlighted as above. (This is an example of the highlighting—the trash can is not a surveillance device.)

Spot Surveillance En Espanol With New Spanish Version

Police surveillance isn't confined to any specific language, and neither is the fight against it. We’ve now translated all the text and audio in the app into Spanish, with the goal of helping even more users learn to recognize law enforcement surveillance devices in their communities. To enter the Spanish version, just follow this link.

Spot the Surveillance currently works best with a virtual reality headset and a browser that is capable of displaying WebVR. A less-immersive version will work on standard computer browsers through a click-and-drag interface and is available here. For more instructions, visit the Spot the Surveillance page on our Street-Level Surveillance site. If you’re attending this year’s CryptoRave in São Paulo, Brazil, EFF will be there demo’ing this new version of Spot the Surveillance.

For full release notes, visit the repository.

This project was supported during its development through the XRstudio residency program at Mozilla. The project was also made possible with the support of a 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge grant. Journalism 360 is a global network of storytellers accelerating the understanding and production of immersive journalism. Its founding partners are the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Google News Initiative, and the Online News Association.

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