Interview related to “Watch Your Privacy”

Watch Your Privacy

Interview by Filippo Lorenzin related to the launch of the “Watch Your Privacy” Google Glass project

Wearable devices seem to take a step forward on the path of the possibility of tracing the lives of users – path experimented by smart phones. What do you think about this phenomenon?

Various kinds of tracing might currently be happening by the device that’s in your pocket now. Remember the scandal of Apple openly registering every move you made around the globe, for anybody to read that got hold of your iPhone. We don’t always know exactly what’s happening within the software and services we use, but we can trace what data goes where. It’s important that there’s an active hacker community that dissects and inspects the ‘black box’ software that surrounds our lives. It’s the way to force software providers to be fair. With the hardware just being an innocent provider of certain functionality, it’s important that there’s a flourishing world of alternative software to run the continuing hardware innovations. So users can choose a provider for their software, network or data-store that suits their prefered level of security.

What does it mean to be careful about our privacy in a context like today?

You can try to be careful, but that doesn’t mean it will actually help. For us as individuals, it’s obvious what is within our reach to safeguard a certain level of privacy during our life online (And using our mobiles and thanks to AR, this online life is merging with our reality outdoors). It takes a certain type of common sense we should all own as inhabitants of an increasingly digital world. What do we explicitly and implicitly share in the cloud and what not? Much more difficult is it to defense ourseves against invisible surveillance and privacy intrusions by companies and governments. It’s almost impossible to hide from Big Data. It takes thorough understanding to be able to avoid being traced, by misleading or dearranging the ongoing data collection and analysis, and you probably can’t do it alone. Such acts would require interventions on a global scale. Nowadays, we have the tools to reach and mobilize the world. It would for example be a good habbit to have the whole world randomly like and share anything that containts the letter “a”, for a certain random day. But such act should be carried out invisbly. A challenging task. We’re being “nudged”. Is it is time to nudge back? To let Big Data believe what we want it to believe will require fundamental and thorough understanding – of something that’s definitely growing beyond our basic human scale.

In what way projects like yours can lead people to critically ask themselves in relation to online surveillance? Do you think average users will change some their ideas about this topic in the future?

Some aspects in my projects are left open, deliberately. For example, the setting to express your preference concerning the safe zone. Are you happy being out of reach of the surveillance, or do you seek the opposite? The public opinion is divived. Some prefer total privacy, others cheer when hi-res cams capture criminal activity. A project like “Watch Your Privacy” asks people to take sides. A reason on the background for me to launch this project, was that Google Glass suffers a lot from the massive and loud pro-privacy movement. It’s a pity, because for the creative world the device could mean so much more than just a privacy problem. It’s not just Google Glass that causes a privacy issue, the debate should be taking place on a more fundamental level, beyond the specific hardware. Soon we’ll have people carrying contact lenses with camera’s, we’re already having people wearing Memoto cams on the street. It will be about etiquette. What do we share online and not? Although we seem incapable of enforcing an etiquette for companies or governments, so that might be the real problem. Watch Your Privacy offers a “solution”. But his solution is double sided. You gain some privacy, and you lose some, because your position is added as movable cam to the surveillance database and shared with others. Once again, it’s on purpose that I create a project this way. It cannot be classified instantly, so it requires a (potential) user to think twice before using it.