Social Narratives

Modern Surveillance


Surveillance has changed and become an almost integral art of our lives – from monitoring all our bodily functions with fitbits to having smart appliances in our houses, the art of surveillance has subtly shifted. It’s now all about the data. But not just any data, Metadata; data of data, the seemingly harmless information which we’re continually reassured that ‘those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear’. Though the evidence seems to point elsewhere; the former director of the CIA and NSA has stated that ‘We kill people based on Metadata’ with evidence to support that.

Data is at the heart of it all, so how can I make data meaningless? I thought of means of blocking it, but reasoned that would simply result in an increase in its value. Eradicating a need for data, having everything out in the open is simply unfeasible and removing yourself to a cabin unknown to anyone in the middle of nowhere isn’t an appealing option. So I thought of muddying the waters – maintain what data is there but pollute it with other data so as you know it’s corrupt, but can’t distinguish it. Collecting your data and but exchanging it with someone else to no longer make it relevant to yourself.

The infeasibility of this soon became apparent – metadata is a two way process, we cannot tamper or change it as its not only on our side, but on the side of the network providers, website owners, etc. which have the information that their site was visited. Like a phone call; deleting it from your call log doesn’t remove it from theirs. So how could I make it more tangible? Well cookies are small data files which track our online activities and even location, which can easily be found on a mobile/computer. So I can up with something that captures your cookies, physically showing them for you to then exchange with someone else when you’ve collected enough. The Cookie Jar.

The idea is simple really; a phone case with removable ‘Jar’ which stores cookies. An app comes with it, synchronising your device to the case. The more you browse, the more cookies you collect, then simply exchange them with someone else.

This video roughly demonstrates how the Cookie Jar works.