Composer Jason Staczek recently teamed up with filmmaker Brett Gaylor, Upian, the National Film Board of Canada, Arte, Bayerischer Rundfunk, CBC/Radio-Canada to create the music for “Do Not Track”, a documentary short film series investigating the impacts and extent of the new culture of blind data sharing, privacy, and web economy.
“I wrote and recorded the music for the first six episodes in the studio here on Vashon,” says Jason. “For the final episode, I traveled to Paris and created music from found street and subway sounds as a nod to the series’ Parisian producers, Upian.”
As each of the series’ videos progresses, the video’s user interface both tracks your IP’s location and includes basic questions to ‘customize the experience’ to you, while simultaneously collecting personalized information to help illustrate the campaign’s key point: you’re data is so, so available.
Of course we are more than just data, but most tech companies see us as just that: free lunch. Everything we read, watch, play, count, like, search and buy exists as a data point creating a complete profile of our lives. Some of this information is provided consciously, but most of it we provide unawares. So what does that mean for us?
The series starts off reviewing what we all (hopefully) know: our online activities produce data. This data is bought and sold, and is the basis for the Internet’s “surveillance economy”. Third parties collect, buy and sell it to advertisers who use it to create personalized web browsing experiences.
Things get serious over time, however: this continuous collection of data will result in extensive profiles of each of us, for sale to any interested party.
When researchers for “Do Not Track” ran certain algorithms, they could determine both the obvious (age, gender, occupation,) and the less obvious (sexual orientation, “promiscuity”, whether someone could quit smoking, comfort levels with risk).
The ramifications are serious: 90% of available personal data was collected in the last two years alone. We’re already scanning daily news feeds determined by what our friends like, what we like, what’s “trending” ahead of objective professional news outlets.
Equally relevant, the series points out how governments use the same data collection techniques to help ‘fight terrorism’. We’re told to give up our privacy for the sake of government-run security. “Do Not Track” suggests instead that privacy and security go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other.
Good job, Jason, for scoring this eye-opening critique of our online world! It’s crucial message both bridges the gap between the worlds of online and reality, and hammers home that the gap doesn’t actually exist.
“Your digital self is linked to a real person, and you only have one, so you should protect it,” warns coder Harlo Holmes, software developer of the Guardian Project.
Fortunately for us, it’s not too late. The series shares which advocacy tools
available to take a stand and say “Do not track me!” And they’re only a click away.