This Font Will let You Know That the NSA Thinks You’re a Terrorist

project seenGoogle, Amazon, OverDrive, and other companies may choose fonts based on how good they are for reading, but not every font is made for that purpose.

We've seen fonts designed to foil OCR apps and to show what it was like to read if you have dyslexia, and now a designer has developed a font which is intended to remind us that the NSA is always watching.

Project Seen is a new font that lets you know in near real time whether your text is likely to draw the attention of the NSA and other spy agencies. It's the work of Emil Kozole, a graduate student at Central Saint Martins in London.

According to Kozole,

Seen is a project that deals with interception and filtering of our communications by the NSA, GCHQ and other security agencies. It is a typeface with a preloaded set of trigger words the agencies are targeting when scanning through our online communications. The typeface can be installed and used as any other font, but once any of the trigger words is written, the font immediately crosses it out.

The list of trigger words is based on the NSA Prism database of terms originally leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013. That list includes some obvious terms but also many inexplicable common terms like badges, cornflower, Bugs Bunny, Harvard, face,, daisy, and firefly (yes, the NSA is gunning for browncoats, and with good reason - the dirty rebels).

If I were using the Project Seen font on this page all of those words would be marked out and you would see something like this:

project seen

That is obviously not a readable font, but that's okay because Kozole was trying to make a point. This font was created in order to make people think about the privacy implications of what they are writing while they are writing.

It is the auto-correct of online privacy and secrecy. Like the spellcheck tool we all use in word processing apps, Project Seen exists to tell you when you've erred.

Or as FastCo put it:

That email you send your buddies suggesting Beef Wellington for dinner and then a little blackjack in the basement? It's a potential minefield of NSA spook words that could send agents kicking down your door, if you use enough of them.

I think that's melodramatic but it gets the point across.

You can download the font on the Project Seen  website.

About Nate Hoffelder (11467 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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