This work was made in response to a call by Metamute (London) for Jam Echelon Day 2001. Echelon is the automated surveillance system employed by the US, UK, Australia and other allies to snoop on global electronic communications. This net-based artwork employs words and terms stored in the Echelon system in a program that automatically generates novel texts from them.
Whenever a user moves their mouse over the text in the top left corner it will automatically re-write itself as a new text. It will then e-mail that text to a random e-mail address (this last e-mailing component of the work is currently disabled, but will be enabled by the artist at the appropriate time - the effect will be to flood the net with echelon sensitive messages at the rate of hundreds per minute, depending on user interaction). Many other auto-authored Echelon based texts are also written to the screen at the same time.
Echelon is reportedly capable of intercepting large portions of the world's communications, including phone conversations, email and SMS. It uses dictionaries to search for keywords that various security services consider to be of interest. Under the Echelon system a particular station's dictionary computer contains not only its parent agency's chosen keywords, but also a list for each of the other four agencies. Each station collects all the telephone calls, faxes, telexes, emails, internet traffic and other communications that pass through it and compares them against this list of keywords.
This artwork uses similar grammar software to that used in The Great Wall of China, by the same artist.
All code, data and other material used in Echelon were authored by Simon Biggs (except the words). The work is in the collection of Doron Golan, NYC.