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The Transborder Immigrant Tool

Posted by: on Nov 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

Via BoingBoing, we find out what at least one of the Zapatistas is doing these days: hacking cheap mobile phones to create tools for illegal immigrants to cross the border between Mexico and the US.

What is the device, exactly?
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 compasslike 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.

Repurposing cheap consumer devices and using publicly available information to route around law enforcement. Brilliant, and undoubtedly just a small part of what we’ll see soon. Plenty of smartphones will be available cheaply soon and, as little computers, should be quite hackable.


  1. David Ronfeldt
    November 16, 2009

    good find. fascinating. what an innovative twist.

  2. David Ronfeldt
    November 17, 2009

    aand today more interesting background is provided at:

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