Felix Stalder on Sun, 23 Jun 2002 16:44:11 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> How We Made Our Own "Carnivore"

The question that Florian Cramer raises -- whether or not RSC Carnivore is
technically innovative or simply repackaging existing functionality -- is
valid. I accept his technological knowledge, amply displayed, based on
which he claims that, indeed, the project is mainly repackaging. However,
the critique also strikes me as overly narrow.

The FBI Carnivore is not just a sophisticated packet sniffing program, but
it is part of a larger techno-administrational set-up in which the program
performs very specific things that no other packet sniffing software does:
providing intelligence for secret law enforcement operations. Carnivore
only is Carnivore because it's embedded in a framework that allows the US
government to act upon intelligence gathered through it.

The difference between Carnivore and other sniffers is that Carnivore can
get you detained. If you're unlucky these days, indefinitely without a
trial. In other words, Carnivore is not just a program, but an integral
element of a law enforcement strategy.

Any critique of the an art work dealing with  FBI's Carnivore must consider
how it addresses the various aspects of the entire process of carnivore,
ie. the all those things that turn the packet sniffing program to Carnivore.

>From: Randall Packer <rpacker@zakros.com>
>Subject: Re: <nettime> How We Made Our Own "Carnivore"
>In my mind, it is important to keep in mind that the Carnivore
>software itself is the focal point of the project. At this early
>stage, I think the applications being developed are skimming the
>surface of what is possible. The use of network data to generate
>real-time visual and musical experiences is clearly in its infancy.

Randall Packer points approvingly to what strikes me as the real problem
with RSC Carnivore. Despite iclaims to the contrary -- and including
"Carnivore" in the title is a strong claim to political relevance -- its
objectives are primarily aesthetic. Traffic data is taken to be input for
visual displays. Their quality is dertimed by the fact that they were
"created by leading net artists around the world," rather than by the fact
that they reveal otherwise hidden patterns in the data streams.

However, the claim that we now have "our own Carnivore" somehow suggests
that we have your own intelligence gathering capacities. It implies that we
can somehow turn the tables, that were are not only spied on, but we have
the ability to observe back, and to observe in a meaningful way. And with
meaningful I mean that the process of observing yields information that
allows us to act effectively upon the observed.

>From what I have seen, RSA Carnivore offers little in this regard. So,
perhaps rather than calling the explanatory essay "How we built our own
Carnivore" it seems to have been more accurate to call it "How to visualize
data traffic". I admit this is less sexy, but at least it doesn't come
dangerously close to false advertising.


Les faits sont faits.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net