Monday, March 13, 2006

Post-Private Post

Swipe could be seen as anything but art. It seems simple: the bar has a special ID card reader, just like in a grocery store, or rather - a police car (in the U.S., that is). It allows the bar owners to see a lot of things about the customer. If it sounds to you like a sci-fi film, it's probably because you don't live in the U.S. So far, it is nothing more than an ID-checking system turned marketing device. We've heard about it, we might have had the chance to see some of them, but that's about it.

But this time, there is more.

Many people are unaware that personal data is even encoded on their license, and, if they do realize this, they probably do not know exactly what information is there. SWIPE brings attention to these practices and enables people to see exactly what is stored on their mysterious strip.

SWIPE also illustrates how this information is used and why businesses and government crave it. Our hope is to encourage thinking beyond the individual self ("I do not care if a bar database has my name and address and time of visit...") toward understanding databases as a discursive, organizational practice and an essential technique of power in today's social field.

You can also invite SWIPE to your private reception. Here is the "performance" that will take place:
People who approach the bar in search of a refreshing drink will be asked by a bartender (SWIPE member) to show their driver's license for age verification. The bartender will look at the license and place it in an automated, scanning device. While the customer waits for his/her drink order, the SWIPE cash register performs a technique called computer matching based on the driver's license information. Several minutes later, the person's name is called and he/she receives their drink with "receipt." The receipt is a SWIPE compiled data image consisting of the data encoded on a driver's license augmented by online searches of data-warehouses and/or demographic analysis generated by SWIPE custom-designed software.

Basically, you get a fairly detailed picture of yourself. And if you think it matters that it has a few mistakes - it really doesn't. The data will soon be tested on you anyway. You can also access the internet toolkit, hosted by Turbulence. I found out through it that the data I regularly give away for various reasons (studies etc.) are worth $54.18.
This is a very strong initiative, and one of its creators, Beatriz da Costa, seems to be gaining momentum (she will appear in the San Jose Interactive City festival). The worst part is, this is no conspiracy theory. It is describing a simple fact, something that has been taking place for some time now. Privacy is actually at stake. And if you don't care, you might just not be getting it. Quite yet.


Bernie Spear said...

Interesting. And cool

Anabela Rocha said...

It's data mining techniques. And yes, every time you use a consumer card you give away a part of your consumer profile. So... stop buying everything in one place; change supermarket every now and then or, even better, use your friends cards:))) and lend them yours too.


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