Freedom… There’s an App for That
By Adam Weatherall
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In this world of digitally imposed tyranny at the hands of the NSA, with revelations like x-key-score and Lovelace clogging our airwaves adding to the layers of our binary incarceration, it can sometimes feel difficult to feel truly free. But even as our various devices have been subverted to be a one way mirror to Big Brother there are still ways to free yourself through technology. Ever walk through the supermarket and wonder if you’re helping to contribute to a genocide? Or for example, ever wonder if the products you’re buying might be produced by a company that supports child labor? Maybe, and perhaps more likely, you just don’t want to spend your hard earned dollars on a product that contributes money to a corporation whose political views might differ from yours. Well it’s helpful to know that for these issues, like most of the problems thrown at us by our techno driven world, there is indeed “an app for that”.
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One such app is Buycott the work of Los Angeles-based 26-year-old freelance programmer, Ivan Pardo, “It’s been completely bootstrapped up to this point,” he said. He and another friend have pitched in to promote the app. Pardo’s handiwork is available for download on iPhone or Android. You can scan the bar-code on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries. You can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than individual companies. One of Buycott’s campaigns, “Demand GMO Labeling”, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food. If this sounds worthy but burdensome due to it adding even more pressure to your already confusing shopping routine, be assured that your next trip to the grocery store needn’t be all bad. There are Buycott campaigns, for example, that encourage shoppers to support brands that have openly backed LGBT rights. You can scan a bottle of Absolut vodka or a bag of Starbucks coffee beans and learn that both companies have come out for equal marriage. Likewise you can see if a corporation was opposed to the notion of same sex marriage, for instance, Chik-Fil-A.
As far as protest apps go, hackers and coders alike aligned themselves side by side in New York City, to program a solution to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement’s cumbersome “public microphone” method, The Shouty App. Shouty is a smartphone application started by Nathan Hamblen, a platform engineer at Meetup.com. It aims to supplement the People’s Mic so people too far away from the speaker, or who can’t be there in person, can still hear what’s said. Andrew Gwozdziewycz the creator of that app also organized the first OWS “hackathon” in New York. A “hackathon” as it sounds refers to a meeting that’s purpose is to align hackers, coders, and programmers alike to work on a singular goal. The goal of this “hackathon” was to create new apps for the OWS movement like the highly useful “I’m Getting Arrested” app, which alerts legal support and family via text messaging when a protester is getting arrested. On the other side of the nation Matt Ewing organized a San Francisco based hackathon. He was drawn to Occupy Wall Street and during the process of his west coast hackathon, the initiative helped create websites like Occupy Design, a website that provides open source info graphics for Occupiers looking for streamlined ways to depict their concerns, and the Occupy Hub, a site for aggregating video feeds, tweets and live chats.
On this the two year anniversary of OWS, it’s important to note just a few of the remarkable achievements people are able to make when they simply come together to work towards a single goal. It is also uplifting and equally important to note that the spirit of Occupy at least is still alive as recent nationwide protest marking this occasion should prove. While the majority of the OWS encampments that became synonymous with this movement have long since been torn down, what has yet to tear is the spirit of that movement started in Zuccotti Park just two years ago. In this world in which a single whistle can blow away in an instant, all of your conceived notions of technological privacy, it should warm your heart to know that even as our various governments seeks to contain us, the people are working to free themselves. We at PowerFist.US believe that “Knowledge is power”, and that you our readers should be powerful, which is why we will be including these apps, as well as other suggested programs, to our ever expanding info bank. If Edward Snowden’s ghost whispers regarding the digital chains that confine us have left you feeling as though you live in a Prism nation, it might be helpful to know that Freedom…there’s an app for that. While our fans at the NSA might not want us to be free, hopefully one day… Logic Will Prevail.