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The Hummingbird Clock

The Hummingbird Clock, a counter-surveillance initiative.

As audio investigators, we believe it is crucial not only to assess what we hear but also to understand how we are being heard. With the increasing prevalence of mass surveillance by state and corporate entities and its infringement on citizens’ rights, we seek to listen back to the surveyors and disseminate knowledge about how voices are retrieved, aggregated, processed, and stored.

In the UK, the national electrical grid, which delivers power across the country, emits a constant humming sound with slight frequency variations every second. Most UK recordings carry traces of this mains hum, which can be forensically analysed to determine the recording’s time and date.

For over a decade, the UK government has used this technique as a surveillance tool. The Hummingbird Clock is an online timepiece designed to make this technique available to everyone. If you need to determine the exact time of an audio or video recorded event that took place in the UK after July 7, 2016, you can submit a claim here.

The Hummingbird Clock the-hummingbird-clock-earshot.jpeg
The Hummingbird Clock spins around the second like a seismograph, plotting the line of the UK's fluctuating electricity grid, and this fluctuation pattern is recorded and archived every second around the clock.