Sukey: an anti-kettling app for student demonstrators in London

The creators of the Google Maps mashup used to track and avoid police and kettling during student protests in London have now released a suite of apps called Sukey that automates the process, simplifying the preservation of the fundamental right to protest while still opening a line for dialogue between protestors and the authorities (the app has a function that allows the police to message demonstrators and explain what they are trying to accomplish):

Sukey is our name for a set of applications designed to keep you protected and informed during protests. When you see something interesting, you tell us. When we're confident that something has actually happened, we tell you.

If you have a smartphone with a good web browser, you can look at a really cool compass-thing we call "Roar". If you don't, you can use our SMS update service we call "Growl". Have a look at our guide to getting involved for more information on how to do this stuff.

You can get more details in our executive summary (we call it that because it sounds a bit formal... but its contents are good and informative). You might be able to extract something from our official press release too.

Sukey brings together in-house code (fuelled by many late nights), resources like Google Maps and open-source software like SwiftRiver. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the workload.

Sukey (Thanks, Ben!)


  1. Neat idea except that it is like putting a pin into a map at police HQ with all of your personal information especially when you use this app.
    What happened to walkie talkies or a geek or two running low wattage portable pirate FM transmitters updating the protesters?
    Sometimes low tech is the best bet even if your expensive phone is oh so great, until the water cannons come out.

  2. Huh. I was in Whitehall, keeping a careful eye out to avoid being kettled, and I was nearly caught. A loose group of police officers moving forward spread sideways with people still moving through the line, and then locked, all in a very short time. I don’t see how this app could have helped, and *if* you were close enough to see what was going on, those last precious seconds would be better used crossing the line, not working the app.

  3. @rebdav. Because the police can’t intercept radio transmissions from radios?

    Also, it’s using the tools we all have with us already. Great, you come prepared to protests and are tuned to the same frequency as your friends but for those who get involved and just come along to start with to “see what is happening” the chances are you have your phone with you already, have a twitter account or know someone who does and you can become part of the solution against the problem (the police & state).

  4. I should clarify though, great community effort, just not a problem an app relying on centralized mobile phone service can help with ideally.
    Now maybe building a wifi or bluetooth automated point-to-point peering network into the software could solve that by taking it completely off grid or spreading connectivity through multiple AP’s and mobile services with identity stripped. There is still the issue of police infiltrators using poison nodes and dos’ing an ad-hock backup network cloud.
    Users could be identified with SSL type session keys so that abusive nodes could be banned.

  5. rebdav – Did you see their page on security? I’m not an expert on this stuff, but they’ve clearly thought of that.

    Tata – Maybe this app wouldn’t have helped you, but maybe it would have helped other protesters that you warned with it. Maybe. Only field trials will tell I’d say. At the very least it will help document the kettling.

    I think the timing of the release of this app is a nice contrast to what’s happening in places like Egypt right now, where they seem to be shutting down the whole internet.

    1. The software appears safe on the data level, it is at the GSM layer that it is easy to ID and catch individuals. Even if the server is somehow obfuscated mobile phone tech has been able to triangulate a phone to a few meters via tower pings for many years.

  6. For those who are wondering about the name, i’m guessing it’s based upon an old nurserey rhyme:

    Polly put the kettle on,
    Polly put the kettle on,
    Polly put the kettle on,
    We’ll all have tea.
    Sukey take it off again,
    Sukey take it off again,
    Sukey take it off again,
    They’ve all gone away.

  7. I love this century, where technological innovation appears to have the power to be game-changing for the people, finally.

    The geek shall inherit the earth.

  8. (the app has a function that allows the police to message demonstrators and explain what they are trying to accomplish)
    I really like this. As much as kettling strikes me as just an idiotic idea, I really like that they are taking the approach that protesting can happen best when the lines of communication are open. It’s an excellent way to frame it all; I hope everyone takes advantage of it.

  9. As a telecoms specialist with the ‘knowledge’… nice to have this app but I can (be ordered to) block all mobile transmissions at a moments notice by shutting down key mobile towers making the grid inoperable. Similarly, ALL “CDR’s” (call data records) are captured so there is no anonymity at all. People are really fooling themselves by thinking of mobiles as enabling devices. They can, and are, used to incriminate people – why do you think there has been a move to require ID for pre-paid sim cards? The person who recommended using walkie-talkies and @rabdav ‘s proposals are far more realistic.

    For some reason I see a host of ‘runners’ bringing bad news to the general with the knowledge they will be beheaded for doing so.

    Tin can and string anyone?

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