There’s a Spy in your Pocket by Unwanted Witness

Unwanted Witness is a Ugandan civil society organisation on a mission - to spread the word that our right to privacy is under threat. It’s no easy task. Most people don’t realise just how much personal data they’re shedding every time they open up an app on their phone.

“There’s a Spy in your Pocket” is an interactive story constructed in Shorthand that makes the sheer scale of surveillance difficult to ignore. Izzy Identificator, Lonnie Locator, Addie Adsense, Connie Crasher, and Doris Devvie are a family of cute (yet incredibly sinister) trackers who introduce the technical concepts of tracking in an approachable way.

Together with Data4Change, we tested 82 of the most popular apps in Uganda and analysed their privacy policies. On average, apps deployed 7 trackers and requested access to 30 different permissions on the users’ mobile device. In some cases it would take five hours to read all of the third party policies.

Since the story launched in 2021, 3,500 readers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have learned how one single tap on “Amen” in the King James Bible app (one of the most popular apps in East Africa) sets 15 different types of trackers to work exploiting 33 different permissions to capture and share their data. The story was accompanied by a social media campaign using the key data visualizations from the story. The story has been an incredibly effective way for us to communicate to our audience how tracking works by using data and humour to shine light on a very serious issue.