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ScareMail is a web browser extension that makes email “scary” in order to disrupt NSA surveillance. Extending Google’s Gmail, the work adds to every new email’s signature an algorithmically generated narrative containing a collection of probable NSA search terms. This “story” acts as a trap for NSA programs like PRISM and XKeyscore, forcing them to look at nonsense. One of the strategies used by the NSA’s email surveillance programs is the detection of predetermined keywords. Large collections of words have thus become codified as something to fear, as an indicator of intent. The result is a governmental surveillance machine run amok, algorithmically collecting and searching our digital communications in a futile effort to predict behaviours based on words in emails. By filling all email with “scary” words, ScareMail proposes to disrupt NSA search algorithms by overwhelming them with too many results. After all, a search that returns everything is a search that returns nothing of use.

Grosser Benjamin