posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Feb 2012 11:22 UTC
IconNo matter where you look these days, there's a profound sense here in the west that the people no longer having any tangible control over what our governments do. Sure, we are allowed to vote every once in a while, but effectively, most of our countries are governed by backroom deals and corporate interests. If matters really do get out of hand, how do we fight this? Well, with technology of course!

The Transparency Grenade is a project by Julian Oliver, currently on display at the Weise7 exhibition in Berlin. It consists of a replica Soviet F1 hand grenade, but instead of explosives, it contains a tiny ARM computer, a microphone, powerful wireless antenna, a battery, and some additional electronics. It runs Linux (of course). Once 'detonated', the Transparency Grenade captures voice and network traffic, and using its powerful antenna, sends it to a remote server where the data is mined for useful information.

The Transparency Grenade itself is a thing of beauty, a piece of arts whose design reflects its intended purpose. The shell of this 'grenade' is made out of a highly resilient transparent resin, allowing you to peek at the electronics inside. The metal parts are hand-crafted out of sterling silver. All in all, it's simply stunning.

Of course, you aren't going to fool anyone carrying this thing around - this is an art project meant to make a statement, not to actually be used anywhere. I highly doubt security staff is going to look kindly upon you as you walk around with what, for all intents and purposes, looks like an explosive.

To that end, an Android application is being developed for rooted Android devices which serves the same purpose. It will run silently in the background on your device, and will come with a user interface for configuration. The server-side software has been released as well so that the application has something to talk to.

Imagine a high-level whistle-blower inside a corporation. A government official wanting to expose unlawful practices within an administration. Heck, even a concerned citizen trying to shame a corrupt local politician. The grenade itself is an art project, but the software that powers it is a genuine weapon - just without it actually killing people.

Can you imagine popping one of these in an Obama-content industry meeting? A talk between Apple, Microsoft and Oracle where they set out Android patent trolling strategy? A high-level Facebook or Google meeting where they discuss the next big way to silently collect your personal information?

The fact that artists feel the need to create something like this shows how dark the path we're heading down to has become.

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