Electronic Civil Disobedience comes the Transborder Immigrant Tool, a simple mobile application intended to aid and abet border-crossers from Mexico to the United States by mapping the safest routes to take.From a group calling themselves
This GPS app is built to work on the cheapest cell phones available. It brings to mind every petty-but-illegal transgression the casual user could commit and stretches the boundaries of the permissibility of tech's uses for plausibly illegal means. The next time you use P2P or bit torrent clients to download media or use an iPhone app to detect police radars, think about this mobile application and how it reflects on American law and the Internet.
UPDATE: According to the Transborder Immigration Tool website, the application uses Spatial Data Systems and GPS "for simulation, surveillance, resource allocation, management of cooperative networks and pre-movement pattern modeling (such as the Virtual Hiker Algorithm) an algorithm that maps out a potential or suggested trail for real a hiker/or hikers to follow." In addition to allowing would-be illegal immigrants quick and simple access to map information, the application's creators hope it will "add an intelligent agent algorithm that would parse out the best routes and trails on that day and hour for immigrants to cross this vertiginous landscape as safely as possible."
On startup, the app finds GPS satellites. Once the user begins moving, the app acts as a compass that shows the direction the user is heading and also shows the direction a user must travel to reach a "safety site."
The app seems to originate from a hacktivist group out of UCSD - hardly a historical hotbed of technological innovation, but close enough to the US-Mexican border to have a significant impact on the politics of technology in that area. The group also advocates DDoS-like digital sit-ins to bog down the resources of websites it deems offensive.
In an interview with Vice Magazine, the app's creator, Ricardo Dominguez, said, "We looked at the Motorola i455 cell phone, which is under $30, available even cheaper on eBay, and includes a free GPS applet. We were able to crack it and create a simple compass-like navigation system. We were also able to add other information, like where to find water left by the Border Angels, where to find Quaker help centers that will wrap your feet, how far you are from the highway - things to make the application really benefit individuals who are crossing the border."
Hundreds of would-be immigrants are killed each year while trying to enter the United States.
Check out this Border Patrol YouTube video on the newly installed double-layered fencing between the U.S. and Mexico, a fence that stretches between 700 and 800 miles along the Rio Grande.
The application is currently in an alpha state of development. Dominguez hopes that, through working with Mexican communities, churches, and other organizations, the app will be ready to use soon.
So, what do our readers think? Is this Dominguez a political dissident or a legitimate academic researcher - or both? And is a mobile app enabling illegal Mexican immigration to the U.S. a live-saving tool for those who seek better opportunities, or is it simply another law-breaking tool developed by tech hackers for life hackers, a workaround to cheat the system?