Obfuscation – the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects – is the focus of a new book by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum of the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. As we worry about personal data being collected by governments, corporations, and hackers, the authors highlight the use of obfuscation as a tool for resisting today’s pervasive digital surveillance.
“We mean to start a revolution with this book. But not a big revolution – at least, not at first,” write Brunton and Nissenbaum. “The focus on our limited revolution is on mitigating and defeating present-day digital surveillance.”
Brunton and Nissenbaum describe tools and a rationale for evasion and noncompliance, especially for average individuals – those not in a position to opt out or exert control. They write that obfuscation empowers users to push back and express dissent, expands the toolkit of software developers, and brings attention of policy makers to these concerns.