The 'Web Training Collar' Shocks You When You Visit an Insecure Site

Would you sacrifice physical comfort for the knowledge that your data is secure?

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Jul 21 2015, 5:19pm

Image: Jasper van Loenen

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As the push towards a more encrypted internet advances, many users, perhaps not fully appreciating the value of encryption, continue to frequent sites that use the less secure HTTP protocol. While most of the pressure to change the web standard to HTTPS has focused on publishers, a project by Dutch technologist Jasper van Loenen seeks to change user habits through corporal punishment.

The Web Training Collar is a modified dog collar that applies an electrostatic shock to the user whenever they click on a site that doesn't offer the HTTPS protocol. This is done via a browser plugin connected to a local server, which interfaces with the collar through an RF transmitter and an Arduino Nano microprocessor. With each subsequent visit the user makes to the site, the intensity of the shock increases incrementally, in what van Loenen hopes creates a Pavlovian effect causing the user to avoid the site.

The project came about when van Loenen attended the Utrecht medialab Setup's "Controlegroep" (control group) event, a hackathon inquiring whether apps and devices could be designed to affect user behaviour.

As an artistic project, the Web Training Collar isn't an attempt at solving the issue of better encrypted protocols, but it is notable in its focus on users over publishers. As common consciousness around encryption is raised by projects like this, will greater demand motivate publishers towards HTTPS with greater urgency?