Everyone eavesdrops but few people will admit to it. However, two artists decided to bring the popular pastime into the digital age, with a lamp that can listen in on conversations and post the juiciest details straight to Twitter. Kyle McDonald and Brian House created Conversnitch to raise the issue of privacy in a world where internet-connected mobile devices make it so easy to share other people’s secrets.
The device is extremely easy to build, comprised of a Raspberry Pi miniature computer, a microphone, an LED, and a plastic flower pot. It screws into any standard bulb socket, which not only disguises it, but also serves as a power source. “This is stuff you can buy and have running in a few hours,” McDonald, a 28-year-old adjunct professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, told Wired.
Audio collected by the device is uploaded using the nearest open Wi-Fi network, after which it’s transcribed by users on Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform, Mechanical Turk. Names are obscured for privacy, and some of the Tweets have been deleted due to suspicions that the transcriptions weren’t 100% accurate.
Some of the places where the device has already been set up, include a New York McDonald’s, a bedroom, a bank lobby, a library, and Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. To see what people have been talking about, be sure to head over to the Official Conversnitch Twitter account.
In light of the recent privacy scandals that have swept the U.S., House, a 34-year-old adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, asks, “what does this stream of tweets mean if it’s not set up by an artist but by the U.S. government?”