True to form as a millennial, I am always connected. And while I pride myself in not being constantly attached to screens, my devices are always collecting data.
In order to truly understand the extent, I took a trip to The Glass Room, a popup shop in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood.
This popup store does not sell anything. Rather, the purpose of the shop is to show the power of the companies who collect and compile this data.
The shop was organized by Tactical Technology, a German non-profit that works to raise awareness about personal data, and Mozilla, the non-profit behind the popular web browser, Firefox.
The popup shop is free and open through Sunday, but in case you don’t get the chance to make it, here’s a look inside.
This section, “Something to Hide,” is made up of different objects that force the visitor to think about who really owns their personal data. “We want people to feel uncomfortable,” said Marek Tuszunski, the creative director of Tactical Technology and my tour guide.
One of the most shocking objects in section was a collection of eight books.
In 2012 LinkedIn was hacked and 4.6 million passwords were compromised. Artist Aram Bartholl arranged these passwords in alphabetical order in this series of books.
Luckily I had created my Linkedin account shortly after the hack, so my exact password didn’t make it in the books. But there were about 10 other passwords almost identical to my own.
While this book might not have my passwords, another one might. And since I (yes, I admit stupidly) have the same password for everything, who has access to my accounts that I don’t know about?
The next section is called “Normal is Boring” and it explores the power of different Silicon Valley tech companies.
To start off this section, the popup shop shows you a diagram of Mark Zuckerberg’s house.
Business Insider reported back in 2013 that Zuckerberg bought four other homes that surround his home allegedly for privacy.
The purchase, which cost him about $30 million, begs the question, who can afford privacy? Do you have the own one of the major companies in Silicon Valley in order to have some privacy?
Each of Google’s acquisitions or investments is represented by a point in this diagram. The size of the circle around the point is based on how much Google invested in them.
The point: Google collects a lot of data about you. While of these acquisitions may have nothing to do with that data collection – and many no longer exist as products – it’s an interesting visual representation of how big Google has become.
This diagram shows how much money Apple has stashed overseas, on which it hasn’t paid US taxes, compared with government budget items.
The last section of the popup store is called “Big Momma.”
“Usually we talk about Big Brother, which represents control and abuse, but here we have Big Momma,” Tuszunski said. “Big Momma is about protection.”
The point of this section is to show how we have institutionalized data tracking and observation in society. It includes items like a tracking system for Syrian refugees, and tracking system for elderly relatives to make sure they are taking their medication and living healthfully.
Sufficiently freaked out by how much data you share with the world? The popup store finishes off with a Detox Bar in the back, complete with “ingeniuses” in white shirts, who can teach people how to be safer about the data they share.
“We don’t ask people to run away or hide, but we tell people they can do better than they do,” explained Tuszunski.
The popup store is open until Sunday, Dec. 18. Head down to Mulberry Street to catch it while it’s still open.
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