An Exploration Of Privacy Awareness
X-cept all is an open interaction design installation, using narrative-led graphic and spatial synthesis of live data to apprehend oft-dismissed online decisions and their adverse consequences.We aim to rekindle the dialog about privacy online.
Initially we invite the audience to first step into the shoes of a fictional user on the “user” side, where they, in a playful way, toggle physical privacy settings reminiscent of cookie settings on your everyday website.
They can then step over to the “company” side of the installation, where they can view the detailed stories inferred by the company about the user, on multiple small screens, through the data linked to the privacy settings.The juxtaposition between the friendly front of the installation and the dark and secretive back, eliciting a sense of discomfort and uncertainty about the viewer’s own habits online.
We are not trying to convince people of anything or teach them exactly how cookies work but ideally what they would walk away with, is that they stop and think for a moment before clicking “accept all” next time it pops up on their browser.
The Project Intro:
“People know what they do; Frequently they know why they do what they do; But what they don't know is what what they do does."
- Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilizatio
An almost a one-to-one metaphor for people’s understanding of giving away their data online. When a person accepts cookies, for example, they know what they are doing, they are giving away data. They give the data away because they know it will change their experience somehow. What we have discovered though, is that people don’t know what happens with their data and how much of it really is collected.
Our research reviews how people understand personal data online and demonstrates that although people are aware of online privacy, there is less focus on personal data protection due to unclear data collection and exchange processes. This is not surprising as, in Human-Data Interaction terms, this lack of “legibility” is often because the algorithms used in processing the data are the core intellectual property of the companies that use them, so this information cannot easily be made public.
Inspired by Nissen et al’s Trustball installation where visitors are encouraged to explore alternative models of consent in relation to accepting terms and conditions we wondered whether turning digital interactions into physical acts might reframe certain choices around privacy.
The importance of data privacy literacy cannot be understated. Only when people achieve a greater understanding of how their data is being used by other entities, will they be able to make informed decisions around giving their data away. Increasing this literacy must first come from creating awareness and curiosity.“First and foremost, consumers cannot protect themselves from risks they do not understand. We find a gap between the knowledge users currently have and the knowledge they would need to possess in order to make effective decisions about their online privacy.”
While it has been argued that raising awareness doesn’t necessarily change behaviour and potentially further entrenches previously held beliefs, data privacy online remains an interesting and important topic that is worth exploring in thought-provoking and interactive environments.
Design & Build
After an initial period of coming up with, and subsequently, rejecting concepts, we decided to pursue the topic of personal data in the context of cookies. Included in this initial concept was the idea to create two separate sides within the data exchange. We didn’t have an exact idea of how we would execute this idea though.
This is where our project split into two parallel streams of work, with each stream coming up with answers to their respective open questions. This method not only played into each team member’s particular set of skills but also gave us the space and opportunity to work on developing new skills we were interested in. The two streams consisted of designing and building the physical structure and designing and developing the digital program, meeting in the middle through the wires