A project for public space, with posters first put up in Karlsruhe and Cologne in autumn and winter 2015/16.
Collection of ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe
Last shown from 2017 - 2019 in the ZKM Karlsruhe's exhibition Global Control and Censorship, which toured through a range of Eastern European countries. Even when it's not shown the project is running continuously; the number is always reachable.
This number was used to call NSA whistleblower William Binney. The number belongs to a mobile phone that sits in a vitrine in ZKM Karlsruhe. William Binney supports this project. He was approached because he's known to be subject to an especially severe form of surveillance. All data linked to him is "cast iron" - an NSA internal term that means that it is kept in its entirety and without durational limits. 100% of it and forever.
We know that the NSA surveils connections across at least 3 hops – they admitted that in 2013. The exhibited phone is a direct contact of William Binney. It's at the top of the list, so to say. If you call this phone from your own device you're a second degree contact, and as such you're a part of Binney's social graph. You're "on the list", too. In a further step, all your friends, your family, colleagues and all other contacts are being surveilled, too – they're third degree contacts.
All of this is being explained on posters that are shown in public space in Karlsruhe and on 200 large advertising columns in the streets of Cologne. The posters also show the mobile phone number +49 174 276 6483 and very large letters say "Wir haben keine Angst", which translates as "we are not scared". The text explains what the cell phone number is all about, and the extent of the surveillance of communications data. It concludes, "One of the most insidious problems is the so-called “chilling effect”. Once you know that these systems exist, you inadvertently restrict yourself."
This self-censorship is involuntary and cannot be counteracted with calls for more encryption. The only thing you can do, the text says, is to make a conscious decision not to let yourself be restricted. This is precisely why people should dial the number now, as a sign that they will not be intimidated.
"Why should you do that, you might ask. It’s true, you’ll be associated with Binney. As will be all of your personal contacts. But what’s at stake here is something that is a lot more important than the potential ramifications of a data trail.
Do you really want to live a life where you shy away from completely normal, legal things, like calling a mobile phone?"
– the entire text is available on the project's home page hop3.de.
Die Standorte der 200 plakatierten Litfaßsäulen in Köln
The poster puts the viewer in a catch-22 situation. Either you call and voluntarily add yourself to William Binney's social graph. Not a pleasant idea, to behave conspicuously to obviously out-of-control intelligence agencies. Or you let it be and have to figure out with yourself if you're not already intimidated.
Meanwhile, the phone sits in its cabinet, and keeps starting to ring. When you call it, no answering machine answers, even after a long wait. No one has to pick it up either, just dialing the number is enough to establish a relationship between the social graphs.
With a completely everyday action, one has entered a new situation in a very short time, one that can be grasped but not directly experienced. The essence of networking - everyone is connected to everyone else for better or worse; everything leaves data traces that arouse desires - becomes conscious again.
One senses something of the extent of surveillance. The device that is closest to us physically and emotionally (cell phones are, for many, the last thing you hold in your hand during the day and the first thing after you wake up), it becomes a little more distant.