Exhibits at The Glass Room London

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. The Glass Room puts big data on display in ways that make it tangible and less abstract.

What does your data say about you, and how is it being used to define you? What do you give up in exchange? How are data and technology changing the personal, professional and social fabric of all of our lives? The Data Detox Bar is where you can get one-to-one advice and simple tips and tricks on how to protect your privacy online and reclaim your digital self. Our staff of Ingeniuses are on hand to answer your questions about the exhibits, talk to you about the issues they raise, and give you practical advice to help you make informed choices about what you do with your data.

The Glass Room is presented by Mozilla and curated by Tactical Tech. Mozilla is the not-for-profit behind the Firefox web browser and uses technology, products and advocacy to make the internet healthier so it’s easy to access, safe to use, and empowers everyone, everywhere.

Tactical Tech is a Berlin-based non-profit organisation working at the intersection of technology, human rights and civil liberties. Tactical Tech provides trainings, conducts research and creates cultural interventions that contribute to the wider socio-political debate around digital security, privacy and the fair use of data.

The Glass Room unfolds in four thematic sections, each of which explores a different aspect of our digital world.

Something to hide

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.

We know you

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?

Big mother

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?

Data Detox Bar

At the Data Detox Bar, you are invited to explore the inside of the online world. Visit the Alternative App Centre to get open-source tools and services for improved privacy. Let our staff of Ingeniuses help you trace your digital footprints, and pick up a Data Detox Kit for an 8-day programme of practical tips on how to manage your digital life.

Open the box

Have you ever wondered what your data looks like from the other side–what cellphone providers, internet providers or websites can see about you andy our preferences and habits as you use their services? If so, take a look at these short, soundless animations showing a bird’s eye view of what data is collected, by who and how. Some of the animations look at the data traces we leave behind when we use digital devices moving around the city or a physical space, some look at how our work and life patterns can be seen from our online data traces as we browse the web,send emails or use social media sites, and others look at how our data is bought, sold, analyzed and utilized and how it begins to shape the societies we live within.