• 02.14.14

The Privacy Worm Turns: Now You Can Spy On The NSA

Belgium-based agency Happiness Brussels is offering us all the power to give the NSA a taste of its own medicine by broadcasting images from the organization’s Maryland headquarters.

The Privacy Worm Turns: Now You Can Spy On The NSA

Instead of cursing the darkness of our surveillance state, one agency is lighting a candle of sorts, shining a spotlight on the NSA’s spying program, or at least on the NSA itself.


As part of The Day We Fight Back, a February 11th protest aided by open-internet advocates such as Mozilla and Reddit, Belgium-based agency Happiness Brussels launched a project called Spy on the NSA. True to its title, the new initiative allows users to surveil the agency whose clandestine initiative Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 to be surveilling us all.

“It’s basically a reaction to the constant stream of NSA related news,” says Michael Middelkoop, one of the two creators, along with Sharif Abd el Mawla. “Every day there are reports of them spying on different levels and having access to all this personal data. Meanwhile, you ask yourself, ‘Who are they?’ Answering that question meant putting the camera on big brother.”

Michael & Sharif‘s new initiative responds to current world events in the same sly manner they reacted to unwanted trends in advertising last year with the Instead of a Lion project. Upon entering the site, users are greeted with an image of the NSA’s Maryland Headquarters through what appears to be a surveillance camera. Watch long enough and you’ll see cars driving around the building and birds flying by. The site also givers users the option to record a bit of the footage and share it with friends on Facebook, an exchange the NSA could very well be monitoring.

While the project’s creators won’t reveal exactly how they’ve obtained this feed, or what exact moments in time it’s broadcasting, they do offer a tantalizing tease on the subject.

“If you look closely there are enough clues to figure out what we did,” Middelkoop says. “This site is as close as you’re going to get to the NSA without getting into trouble.”

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.