The world can be a dangerous place in which to tell the truth. The Guardian Project (TGP) wants to make it safer to do so. Founded in 2009, TGP is a collective of activist software engineers who design, develop, and distribute secure Android apps that serve the needs of modern reporters, filmmakers, citizen journalists, and just about anyone looking to maintain their privacy online. For Boyle Software’s most recent TechTalk, TGP’s Bryan Nunez came in to discuss the human needs driving TGP’s app development as well as the open source philosophy and technology being utilized.
TGP’s most popular app, with over a million downloads, is Orbot. Orbot utilizes the “onion routing” of Tor to allow Android users access to network services that may be censored or otherwise blocked in their region, while at the same time masking the identity of the user from surveillance. Orbot is simple to set up and “easy to use,” as noted in this leaked slide (at right) from an NSA Powerpoint presentation, part of the trove of documents released to the media by Edward Snowden. TGP has similar apps for encrypting phone calls and private, secure text messaging over common services like Google and Facebook.
Another significant app developed by TGP is Obscuracam, a camera app that allows for simple pixelation or black-mark redacting of photographic subjects’ faces and other potentially identifying features. Obscuracam also wipes out a photo’s metadata, embedded information that can potentially reveal where and when it was taken. TGP is also currently at work on another photographic app called Informacam that takes advantage of several sensors in a smartphone, aggregating this additional metadata and embedding it into photos, making them admissible as evidence in courts of law – particularly useful in the documentation of war crimes, etc.
The Guardian Project takes open source extremely seriously; you can explore and contribute to their codebase on GitHub.