Artefact Three: Secrecy/Privacy

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The words privacy and secrecy has appeared in the media quite often in the past years. Whether that’s the annoying cookies disclaimers, constantly changing privacy policy of website(that not many people read) or all the way to hacking and uncovering the mass scale of surveillance(NSA).

Companies and websites are gathering more and more data on what we are up to online. Most of the time we are not fully aware of what that data is and how it is going to be used. It’s not only websites that gather our browsing data, it’s also our mobile phones. The smarter they get, the more intrusive they get. For example, new features allowing mobile phones to recommend you the best apps for you to use track your location. Checking the most visited places and what you do with your device in said area.

If you’re an iPhone user go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations. Here is my map of frequently visited locations in Coventry:

As we can see, I’ve been to the library quite often the past few days/weeks. visited some friends by the park, went out, went to the centre quite a bit and to the train station(which could link to London quite easily where you could continue tracking my steps). It even shows us the amount of times I visited the area as well as the time frames. I was pretty shocked when I found this but chose to let it continue anyway.

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The above image shows a network of websites that I have visited intentionally(white circles; 10) and all the third party websites that have connected as I visited said websites(triangles). I used a firefox plugin “Lightbeam”, more on how it works and why it is a problem can be found here. This easy to use plunging clearly shows how even your standard and rather boring internet use can attract loads of unwanted attention of tracking and “big data” companies.

Big Data is a term that describes the use of data, aggregation, search and cross referencing to gather insight and intelligence. This can be used to very good causes however there are many concerns that it can be misused or misrepresentative and discriminative as it is being more and more computerised.

SecrecySecrecy

Looking at these definitions alone we can tell there is a difference between the two. Even though one of the synonyms for secrecy is the word “privateness” which can be confusing. You can easily keep something secret by being private but just because you are being private does not necessarily mean you are secretive.

Personally I think that I’m a private person, however I wouldn’t say I’m secretive. I simply don’t open up to strangers easily. I open up in “safe” environments to people I trust.

The first couple of results of a simple google search on “privacy vs secrecy” is all about relationships. I will touch up on the subject because a relationship is a place where you should feel safe and be able to tell the person what you feel and do, but still have your boundaries and your own life. However I would like to concentrate on the meaning of the words in the context of online safety, surveillance and everyday life.

After watching the “Panopticon” documentary by Peter Vlemmix I thought of an idea for my third artefact. An experiment in which I would live stream my room 24/7 for a couple of days. I want to see how it affects me as I go about my day. Whether I’ll notice the presence of the camera on my back and if I change my behaviour in any way. The analytic of the live stream will show me how interesting my content, or in other word, my life is(constrained to my room).

Initially I was meant to hack my own webcam remotely to show how easy it is. It is incredibly easy to do, a 10 sec google search will send you straight to a guide on how to do it using a free software called Metasploit. In the same article you can find tutorials on how to plant said software on your victims computer. Since I was hacking my own computer there was no need for that. I planned on somehow allowing anyone remotely being able to capture what ever is in front of my webcam. Giving them the power to control when my camera is on and when it is not. The problem with that is that I didn’t know how to implement the software into my website. One other major problem was the absolute control that the software gives the hacker once it’s implanted on a computer. In theory there are no limits as to what someone can do which poses a big security flaw especially since my computer contains a lot of sensitive data. Because of that i chose to do it differently, by streaming my room 24/7 through an easily to embed video player. All that YouTube needs is a single piece of software that controls the stream. That is why I chose this method of delivery, it is also easy to join unlike the hack idea.

Of course this gets rid of certain issues(ease of hacking, security, sensitive data) I wanted the viewer to think about but I’m thinking of revisiting the idea sometime in the future. Before I used my friends laptop to use as a streaming device I thought of using a Raspberry Pi which is basically a small computer that can be configured to do all kinds of things, limited only by the users creativity.

I have also created a survey for anyone that watches the stream as part of my primary research.

The Panopticon is a design of prison or an institution where the subjects, the prisoners, can be spied on. It also relates the subjects in relation to each other. They don’t know when exactly they are being watched which makes the subject self aware and therefore they police themselves.(Horrocks Ch., 1997)

12272910_10203682083892258_169484839_nEven though this happens on regular basis since UK has the third biggest use of CCTVs in the world(behind China and Russia); I have definitely realised what that meant when I streamed my room to the public and in that sense gave up my privacy. My behaviour started changing the longer I was exposed to the camera and the more viewers I got.

I found it fascinating that I could attract people to watch me, comment on what I do and ask me questions about it or tell me all kinds of things to do. I even received some unsolicited text messages from an unknown number over night however those quickly stopped before I found out the identity of the person.

I’m generally an isolated, introverted person(to some degree). I like my space and need time off from people every now and then to feel comfortable and to feel myself. Giving this up was relatively easy but what surprised me was my own reaction to more online attention. I started watching everything I do(which was expected), I became more and more distracted with the number of views, the angle or placement of the camera and the comments of the people watching the stream. I felt like  I needed to somehow entertain the audience, which I found somewhat problematic since I was doing work on  my laptop. With a suggestion from a “fan” I have decided to move the camera into the kitchen while I was making dinner which attracted and retain attention of more people. I have became a part of a spectacle. My life became a form of entertainment and distraction for others.

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The above image shows the statistics for my live stream, unfortunately because of some complications I had a few streams which separated into different videos but this image shows all the activity. Most of it on the most successful and longest stream. The main thing that I wanted to check is the viewer retention, it averaged at 4minutes and 47 seconds which I found quite interesting because it might seem quite short however after all, the stream was simply of an individual going about their day. I believe that the interaction with me made the audience more interested in the stream. At first I was meant to treat this as if I had no idea that the camera is there and that I don’t know I’m being watched but because of the way the live stream worked and because of all the different possible ways of contacting me, i decided to occasionally interact with the people watching me. This created a two way conversation and therefore more people were interested. This way I was also able to see how people react to being able to watch and not only my perspective of the subject being watched.

Bibliography

Horrocks Ch., Jevtic Z,.(1997) “Introducing Foucalt” London. Icon Books

Occupytheweb(2014) “Hack Like a Pro: How to Secretly Hack Into, Switch On, & Watch Anyone’s Webcam Remotely” Available from: http://null-byte.wonderhowto.com/how-to/hack-like-pro-secretly-hack-into-switch-on-watch-anyones-webcam-remotely-0142514/

Kovacs G.,(2012) “Tracking our online Trackers” [Video] Available from: ted.com/…/gary_kovacs_tracking_the_trackers

Mchugh M.,(2015) “A Map in Your iPhone Is Tracking You. Here’s How to Zap It” Avaliable from: http://www.wired.com/2015/11/how-to-get-rid-of-the-iphone-map-that-tracks-you/

Vlemmix P.,(2011) ‘Panopticon” [Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUyB0Tsj6jE

Look into:

http://erasingdavid.com/categories/watch-the-film/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/08/the-future-of-morality-at-every-internet-users-fingertips/400520/

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