This Art Installation Shows Just How Easily People Part with Personal Data

This Art Installation Shows Just How Easily People Part with Personal Data

Especially when they’re promised some fun in return.
September 30, 2015, 9:00am

Swiss artist Martin Hertig has created an installation piece called "Sensible Data" that's designed to show us just how easily we give up our personal data to participate in something fun.

The multistep process offers you a cute faux passport as your reward. First, you take a picture of yourself with an iPad, and a machine draws your portrait on a piece of cardstock. Then you provide your email address and an algorithm will study your photo to guess your age, gender, mood, and "beauty," which is measured in a percentage; all this info is then stamped onto your passport. Finally you are instructed to press and hold an unidentified button for three seconds to get your "confirmation stamp."

Yay, now you have your cute little machine-printed souvenir—and the installation has your picture, fingerprint, and demographic data, which it reminds you by emailing all the data given up by another visitor to the installation.

The brain of the installation is a Raspberry Pi, and the three machines that build your passport are all variations of Piccolo CNC, an open-source drawing machine.

Any savvy internet user will recognize an obviously shady online grab for information, but how much easier are we to fool when the data is being collected for something whimsical and fun?