The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), io9, and a coalition of fan communities are launching "Project Secret Identity," a cosplay photo campaign to raise awareness of the importance of anonymity and privacy during the annual pop culture convention Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 29 - Sept. 1.
The campaign, online at ProjectSecretIdentity.org, is supported by a cross-fandom coalition of organizations, including: Southeastern Browncoats, a Firefly-inspired non-profit; the Harry Potter Alliance, an activism organization; the Baker Street Babes, a Sherlock Holmes fan group and podcast; Wattpad, a community of readers and writers; and the Organization for Transformative Works, a fan-culture advocacy organization.
"Whether it's the 'Eye of Sauron' in The Lord of the Rings or 'The Machine' in Person of Interest, genre culture has long explored and criticized mass surveillance," said EFF Investigative Researcher Dave Maass. "The last year's worth of stories about the NSA have read too much like dystopian fiction. In response, we need to focus the imaginations of fans to advocate for a future where free expression is protected through privacy and anonymity. "
During the campaign, cosplayers around the world can useProjectSecretIdentity.org to post photos of themselves in costume bearing pro-anonymity slogans, such as "I Have the Right to a Secret Identity" and "Privacy is Not a Fantasy." Dragon Con attendees can also stop by the Project Secret Identity photo stations at EFF's table (second floor at the Hilton Atlanta) and the Southeastern Browncoats' booth (#1000 at AmericasMart).
"In J.K. Rowling's novels, Voldemort came to power not only through coercion, but by monitoring, controlling, and censoring the Wizarding World's lines of communication," Harry Potter Alliance Executive Director Paul DeGeorge said. "In the real world, there is no charm-protected room where we can meet and organize in secret. What we have is the Internet and we need to fight to keep it free and secure."
"Freedom from oppressive governments is central to the ethos of theFirefly fandom," said Serenity Richards, captain of the Southeastern Browncoats. "By standing up for anonymity today, we can prevent 'The Alliance' from becoming a reality in the future."
The activism campaign coincides with Dragon Con's Electronic Frontiers Forum, a track of panels on the intersection of technology with free speech and privacy. EFF Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl will present an update to his acclaimed presentation, "Through a PRISM, Darkly: Everything we know about NSA spying," which debuted at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany in December 2013. Opsahl and Maass will also speak on a number of discussion panels, covering issues ranging from police searches of cell phones to the Freedom of Information Act.
EFF will also support screenings of Terms and Conditions May Apply, a 2013 documentary about Web site terms of service, and The Internet's Own Boy, Brian Knappenberger's 2014 documentary about the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Founded in 1987, Dragon Con is expected to draw more than 62,000 attendees this year.
io9's Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders will be at Dragon Con. Come see Annalee speaking on panels in the science track, or just say hi!