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The EFF’s VR experience helps users spot surveillance devices

The organization wants people to understand the devices' capabilities.
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Matt Cardy via Getty Images

With surveillance technology becoming ever more ubiquitous, it would be useful to know where to look for it. At least that's the thinking behind the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Spot the Surveillance VR experience. It puts users in a virtual neighborhood as a young resident navigates an encounter with police, and it challenges users to spot all of the various surveillance technology that surrounds them. That includes devices like body cameras, automated license plate readers, drones and biometric devices.

"We are living in an age of surveillance, where hard-to-spot cameras capture our faces and our license plates, drones in the sky videotape our streets and police carry mobile biometric devices to scan people's fingerprints," EFF Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass said in a statement. "We made our Spot the Surveillance VR tool to help people recognize these spying technologies around them and understand what their capabilities are."

The EFF says Spot the Surveillance works best with a VR headset, but you can also play along through a web browser. It takes just a few minutes to work through and devices like Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed-Reality headsets are supported. To select the surveillance devices you spot, just use your gaze to position the cursor over them, or click and drag if you're using a web browser without a VR headset. Once you select the devices, Spot the Surveillance tells you a little bit about each one and how it's used.

You can access Spot the Surveillance here, and the EFF wants to know what you think. It says it will incorporate user feedback in an updated version of the experience scheduled to be released in April.

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