Have you ever had the sensation that someone—or something—is looking over your shoulder? It’s eerie, disconcerting.
That’s the feeling “Project Seen“ is designed to evoke. The new typeface, created by Slovenian artist Emil Kozole, automatically parses the words you type and strikes through potentially sensitive ones.
What causes a word to be stricken? The redaction list draws from a catalogue of words that supposedly trip the snoop alarms. “These words are part of an NSA Prism database of terms originally leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 that are used like a surveillance scoring system by government spy agencies,” says Fast Company.
Actually, the source seems to be a Business Insider post, which attributes the lexicon to a Reddit user, who apparently pulled it from the information security site Attrition.org. (Needless to say, Fortune has its doubts about the list’s veracity.)
In any case, Kozole’s font is an art project. And any phrase that might—according to the logic of the so-called “spook words“—be deemed suspicious to an NSA analyst, or NSA algorithm for that matter, gets crossed out. Like NSA, for instance.
“This system highlights where you are potentially prone to being surveilled whilst also preventing you from potentially being tracked,” Kozole writes on his blog. “Seen is an experiment of evasive and reflexive techniques around the topic of online privacy.”
Surveillance and the Internet are, no doubt, inextricably linked. As crypto expert and author Bruce Schneier will tell you, the former is the business model of the latter. The threat to privacy is real. Whether that be some big tech company parsing and logging your email communications for terms to advertise against, or some government agency such as the NSA piggybacking on those databases to gather intelligence.
Think you’re too normal to be the subject of scrutiny? As long as you don’t go fedexing cyanide packages of cyberpunk Illuminati to redheads in Texas? Not so. As the artist Kozole tells Business Insider: “I still wanted to show and educate people on how ‘normal’ words we use in our online conversations on Facebook, emails or search queries on Google are all stored and could potentially get you in trouble.”
For that reason, the author has opted to retain all instances where the “Project Seen” typeface would typographically shish kabob his text.
It is, as aforementioned, unsettling to have a ghostly censor embedded in the very medium through which one writes. A bowdlerizing phantom probing your every keypunch. It’s spooky—in all senses of the word.
Try it out for yourself here.