For Libraries Week this year, I helped co-host a version of Tactical Tech’s Glass Room Experience exhibit in Outer West Library in Newcastle. The Glass Room Experience is a smaller, more portable version of The Glass Room, which is a larger exhibit currently installed in San Francisco, and which was has previously been installed in New York, in Berlin, and in London in 2017, where I helped out by presenting some practical digital security workshops for members of the public.
The event was very well attended — situated in a shared access-space connecting the library to a leisure centre and shopping centre. I had many thought provoking and engaging conversations over the weekend with members of the public. Many visitors were worried and concerned about protecting their personal data online, but had no idea or no confidence that they could take steps to regain control of some of that data.
The Glass Room Experience focuses on interactive and creative ways of visualising data, and is designed for an audience who are casually passing-by. The interaction draws attention from the passing crowd, and people are encouraged to play with the pieces. The pieces help visitors to consider the amount of data they might be generating about themselves on a daily basis, and which companies might be motivated to collect it.
Some of the topics include: ‘smart’ devices, mobile phones, facial recognition, and the role of ‘big tech’ (e.g. Google, Apple, Amazon).
The overall goal of the exhibit is to create thought-provoking visualisations of user data and in-depth conversations about privacy. I was on-hand during the exhibit to talk to interested visitors about their own experiences and concerns with data privacy, and to help them with some hints and tips for regaining control.
The pieces are all innovatively designed to be thought-provoking and educational. As visitors pass around the exhibit, they are prompted to consider the hidden motivations behind the huge amount of data that modern technology generates about all of us, and to consider the ways in which they interact with it.
Visitors can interact with some pieces directly, and can also play interactive games, or watch a selection of creative videos such as this one, where a paid actor spends 9 hours reading all 73,198 words of the Amazon Kindle Terms and Conditions. Every piece encourages visitors to think about their online and data footprint in a creative way.
After viewing the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to try a ‘data detox’, using one of Tactical Tech’s Data Detox Kits. The kit lays out a number of practical and non-disruptive steps that visitors can take if they decide they would like to try and reduce their data footprint. The Data Detox Kit website is logically laid out, and presents visitors with a number of easy options, such as changing the names of their Bluetooth-enabled devices, configuring privacy settings on social media, and using two-factor authentication.
If you’re in the San Francisco area, you can find information about the current Glass Room exhibit here. In other parts of the world, you can see here to check if there are any events near you. For everyone else, I fully recommend checking out the Data Detox Kit site, for a high-level overview of some practical tips to regain control of some of your personal data.
We hope to bring the Glass Room Experience to more North East libraries over the coming months, so stay tuned!