Artist sends NSA a super-encrypted mixtape

David Huerta says it's a reminder that the rules of math "are more powerful than the rules of even the most powerful states."

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Huerta says he chose transparent acrylic for the case "to symbolically give transparency to the device you were using." David Huerta

When you're an artist and a software engineer and you want to thumb your nose at the NSA, what do you do? Send them a mixtape, of course.

Only the mixtape David Huerta sent to the National "Spy" (OK, OK, Security) Agency isn't neatly labeled with hearts and careful penmanship detailing the tracks, because no one but him (and a few close friends) knows what's on it. It's also not really a mixtape -- it's an Arduino circuit board and SD memory card covered in red acrylic made to look like an old-school cassette.

After Huerta compiled his mix and transferred the songs to the card, he then encrypted it to prevent access and sent it to the NSA's HQ in Maryland.

So why would Huerta create a mixtape no one else could open? Well for one, there's no worry that someday he'll regret sending our nation's protectors a whole bunch of mushy love songs that will sound really, really cheesy 10 years from now. Oh, and there's this, which he posted on his Medium blog: "The NSA can read my stupid Facebook updates but without my consent it will never be able to listen to my kick-ass mix tape, even if it's sitting right in front of them."

Actually, that simplifies things a little too much. Huerta explains in the same post that he was inspired to create his art statement because he has "goddamn feelings about mass surveillance, and they are not warm and fuzzy. To take the Internet, which I grew up with so much hope for in being so much more free than the world I physically occupied and turn it into a panopticon brings out the tortured artist in me; I can't help but respond."

So the mixtape, which he says "contains a soundtrack for the modern surveillance state" is his response. It's basically a giant "na-na-na-pooh-pooh" (my words, not his) to the NSA and a musical tribute to documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras and lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald, both of published news stories based on NSA documents leaked to them by Edward Snowden. It's also "a reminder that the rules of mathematics are more powerful than the rules of even the most powerful states," says Huerta.

All that aside, I want to get to the real question here. What would you put on the tape? I keep thinking of Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" and The Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky," but that's just because I was actually making mixed tapes back when those songs were new releases.

So let's hear some other ideas. What songs would you put on a compilation to send to the NSA to tell them to keep their noses out of our business? Let me know in the comments section below.

(Via The Verge)

About the author

Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for Crave and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.

 

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