Your online identity might reveal more about you than you can imagine. How
does it feel to be confronted with that?
Today I visited a theatre festival (Festival aan de Werf,
http://www.festivalaandewerf.nl/) where the Dat-a project
(http://dat-a.z25.org/ partly in Dutch) examines this in a theatrical way.
It can give you quite an uncanny feeling, even though their RFID like
technology right now is not yet what it can be.
You are entering a building, an old school converted to new purposes. It
feels like it can embrace you, yet at the same time it has rooms to explore.
Somebody welcomes you in the hall and asks you to answer just a few
questions on a screen in what looks like a voting booth, privacy guaranteed.
After the first answer though, a picture of your face shows up, which
apparently was just made. The man hands you a necklace like device.
As you move up the stairs, you notice something displayed on a wide screen
above that looks like a page from Google. On closer inspection it is a
pastiche, but it is filled with real data on you, retrieved from the
Internet. You look around to see who else is watching, because you feel a
bit uncomfortable about some of the information on you that is being shown.
You wander around some of the rooms, and mingle inconspicuously with the
crowd. One of the rooms has a video wall, and as you enter that room, your
picture is displayed prominently on the video wall. Around your picture are
pictures of other people who look vaguely familiar. In fact a number of them
follow you in entering the room. A printer then spits out a page, you pick
it up, and it list the time you have spend in each of the rooms, it displays
pictures, names, email addresses and phone numbers of the people you met in
the other rooms, as well as the people that they have met in turn.
If this is what a bunch of art students on a budget can do, what would be
the type of surveillance that the Bush administration can pull off? How
would we feel about it?
Not a lot of people realise how much of their identity is already wide open
to the public, and this even holds for well-educated, young people. I
overheard some of them discuss googling their own names, and expressing amaze
about the length and breadth that information on them has travelled.
It is unpleasant to see information on you spread out wide. It would be even
less pleasant to see wrong information on you being read and used widely.