What is personal data in an age where data is everything but personal? The Glass Room is a space for reflection, experimentation and play that provides different ways of understanding how technologies and data are changing our lives. Here you can find content divided in the thematic exhibition areas.
We Know You
Initially branded as disruptive upstarts, the five companies that have come to be known as GAFAM… see more
What does it mean when we say we have ‘nothing to hide’? Our most intimate data, when it is aggregated into data sets and mined for patterns, is also tech companies’ most valuable asset. We want to discover and broadcast what makes us unique individuals when we share our likes and dislikes, our daily habits and activities, our tastes and interests, but the companies harvesting our data would rather turn us into types and profiles to be traded and learned from. The projects displayed here present more speculative and playful ways of visualising the uses and misuses of our data. You are invited to experiment and reconsider the idea that even if we think we might have nothing to hide, we should at least understand what we’re not hiding.
Where The F**k was I?
James Bridle / @jamesbridle
Your phone can keep your memories much longer than you can. As artist James Bridle puts it, ‘This digital memory sits somewhere between experience and non-experience; it is also an approximation; it is also a lie.’ The data your smartphone tracks and stores about where you go and where you’ve been has the highest value for data brokers because it gives them a detailed map of your behaviour and your social graph, but it is also an approximation based on the device’s way of seeing and the invisible infrastructure it communicates with.
From June 2010 to April 2011 anyone with an iPhone unknowingly had their locations mapped and saved in Apple’s databases, and it’s still not clear what’s become of all those dropped pins and destinations. Bridle’s publication is a reminder of the permanent memories the devices around us contain and how much information can be extrapolated from them.
Who are you really working for when you work out? The information your Fitbit collects about you is not only valuable to you alone. Your doctor or insurance company may like to know when you skip the gym or take the lift instead of climbing the stairs. In fact, some insurance companies already offer discounts if you agree to share your Fitbit stats with them. And, in the future, the cost of your insurance will most likely depend on this kind of data about your footsteps and heart rate.
Now you can free yourself from the pressure of always having to be active with Unfit Bits. Clip your Fitbit to a metronome, a drill, a bicycle wheel or a pendulum and generate valuable fitness data without lifting a finger.
Data Production Labour
Manuel Beltrán / @Beltrandroid
How can we make ourselves useful and get paid for it in a job market where humans are rapidly being replaced by technology? At the Institute of Human Obsolescence, artist and activist Manuel Beltrán investigates how the data we produce is already a form of productive labour. Data Production Labour offers you the chance to visualise your contribution to the Big Data economy just by scrolling through your social media feed. A sensor records your hand movements as you scroll your Facebook timeline, while emotion-recognition software registers your visceral response to what you see. This system makes valuable correlations between what you read and how you feel about it. And, unlike the current systems, it will help you to get paid for that profitable labour. Could this be the future of work?
This project is produced as part of the Summer Sessions Network for Talent Development in a co-production of Master in Technology and Aesthetics of Electronic Arts – National University of Tres de Febrero and V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media, with support of the Creative Industries Fund NL.
Online Shopping Centre
Sam Lavigne / @sam_lavigne
Imagine an online shopping service that sends products to your home before you’ve even thought about ordering them. Amazon’s proprietary ‘predictive shopping’ algorithm helps you shop by predicting what you might like to buy based on your purchasing patterns and the habits of others like you, and then sends these goods straight to you, before you even look at them online. Sam Lavigne wants to simplify that purchasing process even more: he programmed an off-the-shelf brainwave scanner to record his brain activity in two different states: while shopping online and while thinking about his own mortality. The result is an algorithm that can recognise two mental states: ‘shopping-like’ or ‘death-like’. Then he wore the machine while sleeping and let it connect to his computer to make purchases for him while he dreamt. This interactive exhibit gives you the chance to help make the algorithm even better. Simply put it on and start shopping. Can the computer tell if you’re thinking about shopping or death?
Ashley Madison Angels at Work in London
!Mediengruppe Bitnik / @bitnk
Millions of users looking to have extramarital affairs had their data exposed when the infidelity website Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015. The hack also exposed that many of the ‘women’ on the site turned out to be bots fabricated by the company to compensate for their lack of real female subscribers. Around The Glass Room, !Mediengruppe Bitnik have temporarily embodied six of the 436 fembots that were active in the immediate vicinity, providing ‘entertainment’ to around 203,581 registered users in London. Each fembot has a name, age and location, and uses predefined sentences from a list of pick-up lines to contact other users. In the world of online intimacy, how do humans and machines overlap? How can we know to whom we’re giving our data – and maybe our deepest secrets – in a realm as diffuse and intangible as the internet?
Shylady33 (1971), The Lodge, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DE
EncryptionsDecryption (1994), Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London WC2R 0EU
WomanAtWorkAhead (1975), 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET
sexy_samantha89785 (1979), Ossulston Estate, 12 Ossulston Street, London NW1 2AJ
sex_crazed_stacey (1977), Amwell Arms, 12 Inglebert Street, London EC1R 1UU
JaynesDrained (1985), 16-16A Baldwin’s Gardens, London EC1N 7RJ
Forgot Your Password
Aram Bartholl / @arambartholl
Forgot your password? No problem. You can probably look it up again in one of these eight volumes of alphabetised personal passwords. Artist Aram Bartholl compiled the 4.6 million passwords that were leaked in the hack of the professional networking site LinkedIn in 2012. Was your password amongst them? When we create a personal profile online and safeguard it with what we believe is our unique password, even those private passwords are vulnerable to breaches, and may expose parts of our digital selves that we thought were safe. Looking at all these accumulated passwords, what stories do they tell us about the groups of people with similar passwords, or how they came up with them? And if your password can be reverse-engineered to reveal something about you or others like you, how safe or unique is it really?
Wesley Goatley / @wesleygoatley
What does your data sound like? Our smartphones, laptops and tablets are constantly openly broadcasting their unique identification signals to nearby wireless networks, especially when we look for new ones. They also store the names of networks we’ve previously connected with, creating a detailed diary of our whereabouts. Wesley Goatley’s The Listener turns each of these invisible digital conversations, including those from your own phone, into sounds played in the headphones. Each phone within range is given a unique vocal chant to identify its information, and its volume increases with your signal strength. The whispers coming from within The Listener reveal the names of wifi networks you or others around you may have recently joined at home, at work or at a cafe. This may be the kind of information we can rarely see, but here is your chance to hear it. Can you hear yours?
Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne - @tegabrain / @sam_lavigne
Tired of endlessly swiping through no-matches on dating apps? Are you over the back-and-forth messaging that leads nowhere? What if you could bring dating back into the sensory world, relying on your own ‘molecular intuition’? Smell Dating is the new way to make connections. This start-up scent lab and dating service has built a scent database that matches singles based on their olfactory compatibility. Smell Dating illustrates the different standards we have for defining our physical selves versus our digital selves. While there’s no stigma to hiding the scent of your physical self behind some perfume or cologne, why are we less willing to obfuscate our digital traces online? As the Smell Dating service advertises, why not ‘Embrace the musky possibilities?
Adam Harvey / @adamhrv
Have you ever wondered which celebrity you most resemble? The same technology that powers facial-recognition surveillance can also identify your famous doppelgänger. Facial-recognition systems are now installed in airports, sporting arenas and border checkpoints and are fuelled by algorithms that have been trained to recognise your facial features. They can also estimate your age, mood and even your IQ, based on a remarkably small amount of visual detail. Those algorithms are constantly being trained with datasets containing millions of pictures of faces – some of them harvested from social media sites without their users’ consent. Is your face one of them? The MegaPixels project lets you visually query yourself. By simply posing for a photo, you’ll get a thermal print-out of your best-matched face, based on the facial recognition training databases currently in use today, along with other estimated data about your gender and emotional state.
Initially branded as disruptive upstarts, the five companies that have come to be known as GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) have become some of the biggest companies in the world and have amassed the largest shares of our data. These tech giants have made themselves indispensable in our lives, providing services that are as valuable as basic utilities. Collectively, they now wield an unprecedented level of power and influence that stretches across all aspects of our lives, from work to home to leisure. How many of their services do you rely on? And how much do these companies know about you? Each of the exhibits at this table explores a different way in which tech companies and the people who run them have become engrained in our lives. They know us, but how much do we really know about them?
La Loma & Tactical Tech - @La_Loma_info / @info_activism
The Alphabet Empire
La Loma & Tactical Tech
When we think about the slogan, ‘One account. All of Google’, just how much information is in that ‘One account’. What exactly constitutes ‘All of Google’? Maybe more than you think. Since it was founded in 1998, Google – now Alphabet – has acquired more than 180 companies and invested in a further 400, expanding its services to mobile (Android), video (YouTube), the home (Nest), the body (23andMe), self-driving cars and the world’s largest library. With the data that Google collects from our use of its free web searches, email and maps, Alphabet’s expanding empire now has unprecedented insights into our habits, actions and thoughts. This information, in turn, is being used to turn Google into an artificial-intelligence and machine-learning company. This 3D infographic maps the company’s acquisitions and investments, based on openly available information.
Documentation video by La Loma: The Alphabet Empire Behind the Map
La Loma & Tactical Tech
Want more privacy? Just buy all the other properties around your house so no one else can peep in. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, claimed the age of privacy was over, declaring that it was no longer ‘a social norm’. Not long after, Zuckerberg paid over £30 million to buy the four houses that surrounded his own £7.3-million-home in Palo Alto, California. He also asked construction workers and interior designers working on the house to sign non-disclosure agreements before starting renovations. Is protecting your privacy a universal right, or is it increasingly a privilege that needs to be paid for? What will be the real cost of privacy in the future – and who will be able to afford it?
This model of Zuckerberg’s house was created using freely available images from Google Maps.
La Loma & Tactical Tech
This year, Forbes named Apple the most valuable brand of 2017, with an estimated ‘brand revenue’ of £160 billion. [delete] Through one loophole in the US tax code, Apple sends much of its overseas profits to its subsidiaries registered in Cork, Ireland – widely known as a tax haven. This 3D infographic contrasts the amount of wealth Apple has accumulated in offshore accounts and the company’s estimated deferred tax bill with the amount of money the UK and EU governments spent on various departments in 2016–17. The amount of money Apple saves on taxes far exceeds, for instance, the UK’s entire national transportation budget. This business model of strategically using tax loopholes is slowly starting to be challenged, particularly in Europe. In October 2017, the EU Commission said it would sue Ireland for failing to collect as much as €13 billion from Apple. The Commission is also looking to draft a new tax law aimed at other giants such as Google and Facebook in 2018.
*) Apple Q3 2017 Financial Statement
1–3) UK Government Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis (PESA) 2017
4) EU Observer report: EU reinforces 2017 budget on migration and jobs (17.11.2016)
5) BBC Full Financial Statements 2015/16
6) Council of Europe website
La Loma & Tactical Tech
How can companies like Amazon continue to satisfy our love affair with online shopping? The models displayed here are based on Amazon patent applications, which give us a glimpse into the company’s storage and delivery solutions of the future. One is an urban warehouse modelled after a beehive, designed as a vertical high-rise manned by people, robots and flying drones. Its many portals over multiple storeys allow delivery drones to fly in and out at a height that wouldn’t interfere with pedestrians in the city below. Another patent, for an underwater storage facility, would save Amazon the cost of investing in real estate. Instead, products would be stored under lakes or oceans, and could be summoned to the surface via acoustic cues in airtight ‘flexible bladders’. These patents illustrate how the need for maximum efficiency is also minimising the need for human labour in the workplaces of the present – and even more so in the future.
The Hive patent number:
US 2017/0175413 A1
Underwater Warehouse patent number:
US 9,624,034 B1
La Loma & Tactical Tech
Remote-control birth control may be the wave of the future. In 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave a grant of nearly £8 million to Microchips Biotech Inc, a private company developing a microchip that could be implanted in a woman’s body to control her fertility for up to 16 years. The contraceptive device, which is inserted under the skin, can be ‘activated’ and ‘deactivated’ by the user or her doctor. According to the company’s press release, the microchip would be especially helpful for women who don’t have easy access to health care, and therefore the technology has ‘great potential for developing countries’. This fertility microchip is just one example of the ways large tech companies and tech billionaires are investing in charitable enterprises, often guided by a belief that the world’s problems can best be solved by technology.
We often hear the ominous phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’, but what about when the state is keeping track of your actions under the guise of a more nurturing figure, more akin to ‘Big Mother’ looking after your well-being? When governments use tracking technology to provide aid to refugees or when companies promote constant surveillance to ensure that your elderly relatives are receiving proper care, how do we weigh the risks versus the rewards of these technological solutions? These digital technologies promise to make our lives more efficient; at the same time, they normalise the use of surveillance in our everyday lives – we risk becoming both the surveilled and the surveyors. When methods of tracking are not transparent or visible, how can we ‘opt out’? What are the trade-offs when we give up our privacy or autonomy for safety and efficiency? How can we regain some agency to act independently in a world where we are increasingly and indiscriminately being monitored?
How Long Does It Take to Read Amazon Kindle's Terms and Conditions?
When you buy a new digital service, do you read the terms and conditions before clicking ‘I agree’? How long do you think it would it take if you did? Amazon’s Kindle is an example of a new economy in which the products we ‘own’ are only as good as the services we rent from them. We exchange our personal information for products that we merely rent temporarily – like your Spotify playlist or your iTunes library. In this video, Australian consumer advocacy group Choice hired an actor to read all 73,198 words of Amazon Kindle’s Terms and Conditions. At a length of 8 hours and 59 minutes, the video illustrates exactly how much time you would give up to fully understand what you are agreeing to in those pages of legal explanations. What meaning can these kinds of user agreements – which we sign as a pathway to attaining services – have for us if they are too lengthy and dense for most consumers to read or understand?
Video is the copyrighted work of CHOICE Australia.
Silver Mother™ is a product that allows you to monitor your elderly relatives without having to be there in person. By installing motion sensors on your mother or father’s pill bottles, refrigerators, and even in their beds, you can remotely check on your relatives 24/7 to see if they are taking their medication, eating regularly or sleeping enough. The service sends you alerts and reports, if, for example, they haven’t drank enough water that day. This technological solution can provide an invaluable service for those who aren’t able to care for their loved ones. At the same time, it closes the circuit of cradle-to-grave data collection.
Video is the copyrighted work of Sen.se.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
This promotional video illustrates how the UNHCR and the private company IrisGuard have collaborated to implement iris scanning – the unique identification of individuals through the iris patterns in their eyes – to help Syrian refugees in Jordan. According to UNHCR, about 85% of the refugees from the conflict in Syria seek asylum in Jordan. Upon entering the country, they are registered with iris scanning, which allows them to withdraw money at banks and ATMs without having to open an account, enabling them to access much-needed aid. It also helps agencies track those registered. According to IrisGuard, more than 2.3 million refugees in the region have been registered on their biometric database. IrisGuard is a private contractor that has three advisory board members: the Founder, Chairman and CEO of a global merchant bank; the former Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); and the former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush. Whilst the kind of detailed information that IrisGuard collects can be used to provide aid, what kinds of questions do we need to ask to understand how this information may be used in the future for other purposes?
Video is the copyrighted work of the United Nations.
For £149 and a vial of your saliva, 23andMe will analyse your DNA and send you a full report about your family history and your risk of developing certain diseases. Even while the genome-testing service was briefly banned in the US in 2013, it continued to roll out its services in the UK. But the company doesn’t just earn money selling affordable self-test kits. 23andMe also earns money by offering access to the data-sets they aggregate from those genetic tests to multiple pharmaceutical companies and research labs. In 2015, it made a deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to sell access to its ‘research portal’ of nearly 700,000 people’s DNA to help Pfizer in developing mental health drugs, among other products. Such collaborations may indeed lead to the next big cure or miracle drug, but they also can lead to huge profits for a host of other companies you might not be aware of when you spit into the tube.
Videos are the copyrighted work of 23andMe.
Would you be willing to trade access to your social media and browsing history in exchange for a credit score? In order to assign credit scores to those who are unbanked or unable to establish credit, the private company Lenddo accesses their customers’ social media and other data directly from their mobile phones. Lenddo’s marketing video explains how this can help people in developing nations get loans – a potential market of billions of customers. They are one of many companies using their customers’ social media and other digital metrics, such as geo-location or browsing history, to assess whether to give them insurance, a bank account, credit or a loan. Last year, for instance, Admiral Insurance in the UK announced that it would use the social media profiles of young drivers to determine their car insurance premiums. The system was scrapped hours before launch after Facebook said the scheme breached its privacy rules. Would your social media posts meet the standards to earn you a loan or a better insurance rate?
Video is the copyrighted work of Lenddo.
The Device Graph
Have you ever wondered how the ads that pop up on your devices seem to read your mind? That’s because marketing companies are constantly using your data to track and profile you – the sites you visit, the documents you download, where and when you log in to your social media. With all that information, they can target you with advertisements that are specific to your apparent likes and interests. The ad tech company Tapad has managed to fine-tune this process even more, on over 2 billion devices worldwide. Their ‘Tapad Device Graph’ exploits massive amounts of data to create a full profile of ‘your digital DNA’ across all of your devices, not just one – your phone, laptop, desktop, tablet and your TV. It can even distinguish different users in the same household. Tapad is just one example in a massive industry built on collecting, analysing and trading individual data.
Video is the copyrighted work of Tapad.
Do you want the data about your daily Tube ride to be collected by a company that is also a major contractor for the United States’ armed services? When you use your Oyster Card or your smartphone to top up your card, the company providing the technology for that system is Cubic. Besides developing the data-driven system that allows you to travel on all London public transport through travel cards and apps, Cubic is reportedly experimenting with other methods to keep the flow of commuters moving, including facial recognition, palm vein scanning and object tracking, such as the mobile phone you are carrying on you as you move around the city. In this promotional video, Cubic markets its full range of services, from telling your smartphone when your bus will be arriving to supplying the military with portable surveillance satellites.
Video is the copyrighted work of Cubic Corporation.
The Border Interfaced
Joana Moll / @joana_moll
What if you could help fight crime from your computer at home? Texas Virtual BorderWatch was a public-private partnership between the start-up BlueServo and the state of Texas, which operated between 2008 and 2012 to crowdsource surveillance of the US/Mexico border. Through an online platform called RedServant, which advertised the chance to take part in ‘virtual stakeouts’, visitors were given free access to live feeds of over 200 cameras and sensors monitoring the border. More than 200,000 volunteer users logged in remotely and were encouraged to report any suspicious activity they noticed by clicking a red button, which would then be reported to authorities. The Border Interfaced by Joana Moll recreates some of the elements found on BlueServo’s online surveillance interface.
UK Census and Lockheed Martin
The F-117A Night Hawk – also known as the ‘Stealth Fighter’ for its ability to evade radar detection – was built by the secretive Skunk Works division of the US’s largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin. Today Lockheed Martin continues to build advanced military and intelligence technologies that they deploy and sell around the world. In 2001 and 2011, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) commissioned Lockheed Martin to perform the national census, collecting granular, extensive data on over 28 million households across the country. As the ONS press release proclaimed, the government hired Lockheed Martin ‘for conducting data capture operations through the use of a specialist team of sub-contractors’, adding that the project had ‘no significant security incidents’.
Have you ever wondered what your data looks like and how it is used on the ‘other side’ of the screen – what mobile-phone providers, internet providers or websites are seeing about you and your preferences and habits? A variety of ‘data journeys’ reveal the life patterns you create using your devices and how this information is tracked, analysed and traded by others, from data brokers to data scavengers. What data traces do we leave behind when we use digital devices while moving through the city or a physical space? How can someone determine our work and life patterns as we browse the web, send emails or use social media sites?
Data and Elections
How can our data be used by political parties to influence us? Even information we think of as anonymous – like what magazine we subscribe to or what we shop for – can be used to create a personal profile of us that helps political parties create adverts that are micro-targeted to us. This animation decodes some of the companies that are part of this growing trend in political influencing.
Animation by Tactical Tech
Data and the Home
The algorithms that control the devices that make up the Internet of Things – in our homes and our cities – need to be trained to ‘understand’ us. But do we understand, in turn, how these connected systems work? What happens to all the data that is accumulated by the devices in our homes?
Animation by Tactical Tech
Data and Dating
While registering to dating sites like Tinder you give them access to data like your location, contacts, likes/dislikes, and habits. But you also agree to answer questions so that they can find the ‘perfect match’ for you – in the case of Eharmony you have to answer 258 questions when signing up, such as ‘In a certain light, would a nuclear war be exciting?’ But how safe is this personal data and what is it used for?
Animation by Tactical Tech
Through a case study of just one individual, find out what your browser history might reveal about you. Who sees what you’re browsing, and what can they discover about you?
Project by Share Lab, animation by Tactical Tech
Whenever you browse a website, someone is looking over your shoulder. Almost every site visit is tracked by a third-party that shares and sometimes sells your data to others. And they might not always be visible to you. Trackography is an interactive visual tool that can show you the trackers present on the news websites you visit; which companies they, in turn, connect with, and where else your data may have travelled between those two points.
Animation by Tactical Tech
Whenever we can, we join free WiFi networks to get online when we are on the move. This animation – based on data gathered from a conference held in Berlin, Germany in 2013 – shows what the operator of these communication networks can see, what they can learn about who is in the space and their activities.
Project by Open Data City, animation by Tactical Tech
The Monitored Life of National Councillor Balthasar Glättli
As we go about our daily lives, we generate all kinds of information through our smart phones, all of which can disclose insights into our actions, habits and life patterns. We are usually unaware of how much our devices are sharing information about our movements, habits and social networks. This visualisation shows intimate knowledge of a Swiss politician’s calendar, professional engagements, family life, physical movements and social media habits. It also reveals the sheer volume of information that digital devices collect and transmit.
Project by OpenDataCity, animation by Tactical Tech
Confessions of a Data Broker
The buying, selling and analysing of our data is a massive industry, yet it is one we don’t know much about. Who are data brokers and how do they operate? This animation shows some of the findings from Tactical Tech’s anonymous interviews with those who buy and sell your data. In these off-the-record interviews, data brokers talked about whom they buy data from and how, which data is rubbish and which is gold, and how our data is turned into cash for a multi-billion-pound industry.
Animation by Tactical Tech
Metadata Investigation: Inside Hacking Team
We often hear about metadata – that is, data about data. Apart from the content of your communications, metadata can reveal what we are doing, with whom, when and where. This visualisation looks at the leaked emails of one organization and shows the amount of information that can be gleaned just by looking at metadata generated by sending and receiving emails. Even without the content of communications, we can get a detailed picture of the company, its dealings, social networks and internal politics. This technique can be applied to all of us – the more metadata our email provider has, the clearer their picture of us becomes.
Project by Share Lab, animation by Tactical Tech
Every time you go online, you are connected through servers in different countries and jurisdictions. These virtual journeys are tracked, and your data, accurate or not, is stored around the globe. Citizen Ex is a browser plugin for Firefox, Chrome and Safari that reveals your ‘Algorithmic Citizenship’; in other words, it shows you what countries you appear to belong to, based on your travels online. The different virtual nationalities you take on may determine whether foreign intelligence agencies have the right to spy on your activities.
Project by James Bridle, animation by Tactical Tech
Many of us use social networking sites to find new jobs, get new clients or build new business relationships. In doing so, we share a lot of information about our personal and professional lives with a broad range of people that we will likely never meet. This visualisation focuses on the professional networking site LinkedIn, and illustrates how much it can show us about job-seekers and job-holders in one particular sector – in this case, the intelligence community. What can happen when information published for one purpose is used for another?
Project by IC Watch, animation by Tactical Tech
If you use a smartphone, you have on online profile. Do you have one or many? Are you in control of your profile? Is it based on information you are giving away, or assumptions companies are making about you? This animation looks at the ways in which our online identities are created based on our actions online and offline, and how they are used by the data industry. As our profiles become more valuable, it also looks at the new clients for these profiles in the world of finance, insurance and politics.
Animation by Tactical Tech
Living with Algorithms
Algorithms are used as a general term to explain the underpinnings of everything from big data to machine learning. One of the main functions of algorithms is to process the masses of our online data, using the patterns of our past behaviour to guess what we will do next – from what we might buy to whether we will commit a crime. This animation looks at how algorithms are applied in our daily lives and asks how reliable it is to use the past to predict the future.
Animation by Tactical Tech
The Scoring Society
From Dave Eggers’ The Circle to Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, fiction writers are beginning to paint a nightmarish scenario for us of the ‘scoring society’ – a neurotic world in which we are constantly rated through endless feedback loops and random point systems. This animation looks at how scoring is being applied to us based on our online activity – assessing our ‘risk factors’ for receiving a loan, insurance, a credit score, or even being a criminal or terrorist.
Animation by Tactical Tech
How many times have companies claimed that they will anonymise your data? The suggestion of anonymisation is that it will promise us privacy if we give our data away. But how realistic is that promise? Through one case study using research into cabs in New York City, this animation shows how even anonymised data – if it is combined with data that’s already available in the wild – can easily be used to reveal who you are and where you go.
Animation by Tactical Tech
Julian Oliver, Bengt Sjölén & Danja Vasiliev of The Critical Engineering Working Group
@julianOliver / @bengtsjolen / @k0a1a
As you make your way around the city each day you are constantly emitting data from your devices and being filmed on CCTV. As you stand here, The Critical Engineering Working Group is using radio receiver–like technology to passively scan the exterior pavement for signals from passing devices. Those signals are then being shown to pedestrians passing by The Glass Room in real time. The devices shown live on the screen are detected and located by ‘unintended electromagnetic emissions’, otherwise known as ‘data transmissions’. They are then represented here, creating a kind of livestream of data passing by.
Ingrid Burrington / @lifewinning
What do satellites see? Ingrid Burrington’s lenticular prints show data centres, air force bases and other politically sensitive sites as they are captured by high-resolution aerial photography. The lenticulars show two versions of a single location at different points in time, to reveal the instability and shifting realities of satellite views. We see aerial views before and after a data centre’s construction, a building’s details camouflaged by filters, and whole locations blurred out in censorship.
Volkel Air Base
Originally built by the German Luftwaffe in 1943, Volkel Air Base is most notorious for its storage of American nuclear weapons, which may be why the site is blacked out and pixellated in this aerial imagery.
Google often takes a long time to upload recent satellite imagery of its data centres – and of this Council Bluffs, Iowa location, where construction began in 2014, in particular. Until 2016, Google Maps showed only this blurry field. The site may be home to one of Google’s cloud hosting server clusters.
Onizuka Air Force Station
Onizuka Air Force Station was built in 1960 to support early aerospace operations. Referred to locally as the ‘Blue Cube’, Onizuka was the longtime home of the Air Force Satellite Control Facility, which supported many renaissance satellite programs. The aerial views show the station before and after its demolition in 2014.
Julian Oliver & Danja Vasiliev of The Critical Engineering Working Group
@julianOliver / @k0a1a
The news is a vulnerable medium that defines a flexible reality, especially when it is read and produced digitally. At every point of access – from internet service providers to wireless networks – the news can be invisibly tweaked or manipulated. With Newstweek, you can be a master of digital headlines. Hiding in an innocuous wall plug, this device allows anyone with access to the wifi network to manipulate facts and public opinions or create their own fake news. Try changing the news yourself to see how it works.
Tor Access Point
!Mediengruppe Bitnik / @bitnk
Do you want to see deeper inside the web? Visit the dark net, courtesy of !Mediengruppe Bitnik. You don’t have to install anything, just connect to the access point and you will be free to surf the web anonymously.
Facebook Algorithmic Factory
Vladan Joler, Andrej Petrovski and Jan Krasni of Share Lab in cooperation with Katarzyna Szymielewicz
This graph is based on Share Lab’s ongoing investigations into the machinations of the world’s largest social network. From left to right, it maps the means by which Facebook collects data on its users, how that data is stored and amalgamated, the categories by which users are profiled for targeting, and finally, how the company makes its users’ data available to its primary clients – advertisers. Facebook’s algorithms decide which information will appear in your feed, how many and which of your friends will see your posts, what kind of content will become part of your reality and what will be censored or deleted. What other kinds of power might come along with the power to control the content we see?
Exhibition Soundscape: Data Elephant
Jamie Perera / @jamiepereramuso
Data Elephant is an evolving and confrontational sonic commentary on data, permission and exploitation. A soundscape creates a texture of corporate invitation, eventually subverting its own brand of wholesomeness. A small visible disclaimer in The Glass Room ‘allows’ the exhibition to mine visitors’ sonic data. By physically being in the space, the visitor has ‘given’ their permission, with no control over how or to what degree their data is being used. In this sound piece, disingenuous data collection disrupts the soundscape’s invitation and serenity, gradually becoming more insistent over the course of the exhibition. As the soundscape grows to include more disruptive data, it mirrors growing issues around privacy and fair use of data in the public realm.
No discernible words are heard in exhibition audio at any time.
The Data Detox Bar, staffed by Tactical Tech trained Ingeniuses and stocked with Data Detox Kits, was central to The Glass Room as a place to; get one-to-one advice, tips and tricks on how to protect your privacy online; answer questions about the objects on display; and empower visitors to regain a little control of their digital self.
See the Programme page to read more about the Ingenius Workshops, from WTF Facebook, to Investigating Metadata that were offered twice daily.
See the Resources page to try out the Online 8-Day Data Detox Kit.