Hold a mirror up to the all-seeing eye of the digital-panopticon we live in and let it stare back into its own mind.
These DATA-MASKS are animistic deities brought out of the algorithmic-spirit-world of the machine and into our material world, ready to tell us their secrets, or warn us of what’s to come. These masks are intended for use in acts of protest, poetry, civil disobedience, and shamanistic ritual by the citizens of our global village as it becomes further blanketed by techno-sphere.
This work is an act of political protest by means of bringing transparency to the surveillance and biometric techniques used today. These DATA-MASKS give form to an otherwise invisible network of control and identification systems and make their effect on our identities tangible and visible.
“You can’t hit what you can’t see, you can’t grab what you can’t touch. You can’t critically engage with technoculture and its infrastructure if you’re unable to unravel its threads, run your fingers through the seams, visualize its jurisdiction and weigh its influence on everyday life.” #Stacktivism
Computer systems built to represent human identities have contained with them many ontological assumptions about what it is to be an individual and what personal identity is. These systems define the human as a “what” ie: that which can be measured, not as a “who” ie: our inner self.
If the state of the art in computer science can produce a unique feature that describes an individual as such, what good does that do the individual if this knowledge is only leveraged against them?
If private citizens personal information, social graphs, and communications are being analyzed then the results should be made available to said persons to empower rather than enslave them. This attitude has become popular in personal fitness but not in communications, biometric identity, or social networks.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are” – Talmud
Biometrics and Personal Identity
What are we as humans and as individual people? Are we simply a series of statistical probabilities and biometric patterns? Systems of representing human beings identities have contained with them many ontological assumptions about what it is to be an individual and what personal identity is. The previously described surveillance and biometric identification systems define the human as a “what” ie: that which can be measured, not as a “who” ie: our inner self. When human identity is extruded through these instruments of mathematics and computation there is a great reduction how humans are represented.
As an example we can look to Facebook’s DeepFace system (shown above) of representing human identities as 3D models and statistical features . This is out of necessity and efficiency for computational reasons but the results are disturbing. This is in part due to the visually ghastly disfiguration of the human face and the dismemberment of its features. But also because none of the knowledge gained from this analysis is shared with the individuals analyzed. If the state of the art in computer science can produce a unique feature that describes an individual as such, what good does that do the individual if this knowledge is only leveraged against them?
Biometrics and Surveillance
Biometrics is the measurement and analysis of biological data which can be traced to Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, and the eugenics movement. This can involve biological patterns like fingerprints, facial geometry and patterns, eye retinas and irises, DNA, voice and body smells as well as behavioral traits like a persons manner of walking or travel patterns between physical locations. This biometric data is collected and used to represent, identify, and verify an individuals identity.
Total Information Awareness
The FBI has developed a system called Next Generation Identification which has been designed to contain all of these types of biometric data including the millions of finger prints already on file and as many as 52 millionfaces by 2015. Importantly, this database blurs the boundary between data from convicted criminals and innocent citizens raising important privacy and civil rights concerns. When searching for a person in this system the resulting top 50 matches may only contain the correct person 85 percent of the time. This means that many innocent people will be presented as suspects for crimes in which they had no involvement.
Many private industries are also creating biometric databases with commercial applications open to the public. An example of which is FacialNetwork.com , which is a cloud based facial biometric database that developers are using to create mobile based recognition software for the public. Apps like theses will soon enable anyone with a mobile device to photograph someone and search the web for their identity and personal information.
However, it should be obvious that biometric data is not the only thing being collected. The United States and various multinational corporate entities are building an Orwellian police state with programs like PRISM , the successor to Total Information Awareness. These organizations collect and monitor nearly every piece of digital information communicated online today for government based surveillance purposes.
The implications these programs have on our privacy, identity and their impact on social interactions in the future is immense. They suggest a world in which we are always being seen, watched, and analyzed, and new algorithms will emerge ever rapidly which further leverage this data against us.
DATA-MASKS have been developed in order to make these threats to our identities visible through illustrating the way these networked systems capture, classify, and represent human identity.
An elite special forces team, on a mission to rescue hostages from guerrilla territory in Central America. Unbeknownst to the group, they are being stalked and hunted by a technologically advanced form of extraterrestrial life…. known as The Predator