by adam rasmi in

Fall 2017 issue. (Courtesy  Maisonneuve )

Fall 2017 issue. (Courtesy Maisonneuve)

Today I searched the terms “penicillin skullduggery,” “almond loincloth,” and “cat walker”; the latter led me to a do-it-yourself guide on how to create a $20 walking aid for a cat suffering from cerebellar hypoplasia. These are not subjects that would ordinarily interest me, but were instead the results of a tool called Internet Noise, which generates random searches every five seconds using Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature. By adding false data, or noise, to your search history, the tool protests the omnipresent culture of mass electronic surveillance.

On March 28, the US Congress overturned Federal Communications Commission rules that would have blocked the right of internet service providers to track and sell your online activity to whomever they please. In response, Philadelphia-based software engineer Dan Schultz developed Internet Noise, a bare-bones web tool—a mere thirty lines of code in all. As Schultz explains, any decent computer algorithm can see through the obfuscation. Internet Noise was always meant to be an act of protest rather than a genuine privacy tool; he calls it "a way to give the middle finger to people in power." Its creation struck a public nerve—one article about Internet Noise in Wired was shared around thirty thousand times on Facebook and remained the website's most read piece for days.

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