Ethernet packet-sniffing software written in Perl. Presentation format: Three “declassified” letters from Radical Software Group members relating to the launch of the software.
On the afternoon of 9/11 the FBI had the Ethernet packet-sniffing system known as “Carnivore,” installed with a number of major Internet Service Providers and networks such as America Online and Hotmail. Sensitive to specific keywords, file types and programs in the data traffic of the computer or network, the system enabled effective surveillance of common Internet communication in America. A few months later, Radical Software Group (RSG) introduced RSG Carnivore, a Perl script poem in the form of a “free” tool. Technically, the work can perform the same operations as the FBI version. However, RSG Carnivore has no encoded set of rules, i.e. it is not sensitive to specific keywords, file types or programs and allows and encourages users to develop the program toward other critical and experimental ends beyond logics of instrumentalization and control, in addition to what RSG calls “the hero/terrorist dilemma.” As a subtle act of reverse engineering and a pointed political statement, it proposes a perception of data surveillance that expands the notion of creativity in the context of open source software and Internet traffic and counters FBI tactics with a challenging artistic vision of data conceptualization, expression and use.