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[liberationtech] The Vibe App, Anonymous GeoSocial Media

Nathan of Guardian nathan at
Tue Jan 17 16:37:49 PST 2012

Hi Don,

On 01/17/2012 05:38 PM, Don Cadora wrote:
> Gaining popularity worldwide, Vibe is a geosocial mobile app that gained a
> real world application during Occupy Wall Street Protests. Users

First, I want to say that I think Vibe is definitely onto something, in
the way that it has found a way to create a focus experience around
messaging in a specific place and time. While Twitter, Google+,
Foursquare and other services offer some aspect of the features you do,
the Vibe app brings the experience together in a way that has proven
useful to gatherings, happenings, protests, and so on.

It is important to understand however, that by targeting activists,
organizers, and other people at risk, you raise the bar on expectations
for how your app should behave. More on this below.

> anonymously communicate by location with text, images, and video.

Now, the big issue that I think many in this community have is with your
use of the word "anonymously". Can you provide any more detail about how
Vibe supports anonymous communication - aka is it light anonymity "I can
post with a handle or no name at all", or is it true anonymity "even the
Vibe server doesn't know who you are", etc.?

> feet to worldwide— with the option that they will be automatically deleted
> within a set amount of time that they control, from 15 minutes to 30 days,

One main issue I have seen with your app is the impression that it is
somehow decentralized or mesh-networking oriented. I believe it is not,
correct? All communication routes through a central set of servers,
right? You need to be careful in explaining that to users, because the
nature of your communication being geo-located, makes it seem as if it
might be happening directly between devices in a specific area.

It would also be good to understand what "deleted" means as well. Is
there no record anywhere, on any device, or server? Is there a public
policy on logging of a user's or device's location?

> check-ins. Instead, Vibe lets you communicate directly to the people around
> you. Vibe is a tool for talking to the crowd in small or large gatherings

It is also assumed that this "crowd" can include anyone, in the sense
that there is no friending, filtering or authenticating, or than
distance, right? In a place like Zucotti Park, this essentially means
all of the law enforcement and privacy security personal, can also
receive these messages you are posting?

> Vibe is anonymous. Users can see where you are and what you have to say,
> but not who you are. Unless you want them to. Many users opt to tweet their

Again, I think you have to be really careful with the use of
"anonymous". I think saying that you support psuedonyms or handles, is a
better way to put it. With your definition, Twitter is anonymous, which
I don't think really is the case, unless paired with something like Tor.

> Vibe has been successfully used during the Occupy Wall Street movement not
> because it's political, but because it works. Vibe may be perfect for the

It would be great to hear more about your success cases. How many
messages were sent, how many people recieved, etc? Was it used by
organizers to coordinate marches? Did it play a role in communicating
about police violence or other events? I am eager for success stories in
this type of geo messaging for activists, and I think if you have good
data and case studies, you should find a way to communicate them.

> gathering like this, but initially it was designed for students and
> colleges, for people at outdoor events at the park [or other events where

Just a quick point, that it is great to design for one use case, and
have it applied to something protests, organizing, etc, but you must be
cautious about claims of security, anonymity and the like in that case.
If you don't design from the get go with this in mind, you are likely to
make mistakes.

> else would the technology be of use? We think it may be of use to other
> social movements worldwide, universities, and local economies.

I think before you consider promoting Vibe to worldwide social
movements, you need to ensure your security house keeping is in order.
Do you have TLS/SSL enabled for all communications? Do you have a way to
easily wipe or remove messages on your device?

> Is anonymous social media useful to protesting populations? Are there any
> dangers inherent in anonymous networks? Some media coverage of Vibe implied

Anonymity is not dangerous. Apps which claim to support anonymity but do
not, can be.

> We encourage you to Download Vibe and Ask Local and please do give us your
> feedback.

Will do! Mostly I think you should look at porting to Android, and
support the use of Vibe over the Tor network, to enable true anonymity.

Thanks for reaching out to this community.


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