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The Compilers

Raising awareness that a complete picture can be built from many places - something made deceptively easy in the digital space.

Photo of Thomas Grimer
25 13

Written by

Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

This illustrates how a digital 'entity' whether; corporate, governmental, group or individual can collate surveillance information from multiple points of reference and compile a composite image of you - with the intention of building a full picture. Depending on the motivations of the entity it may simply gather the picture it desires - whether it is accurate, complete or not. In this case a 'picture' is figurative - as it extends to capturing behaviors, interests - even beliefs. In a digital space, which is interconnected and increasingly automated, this visually depicts how a composite may be created. It should raise awareness that sporadic, seemingly useless, isolated information can be compiled into something usable and valuable. Though non-exhaustive, examples shown are cloud data, Social media, shopping, CC surveillance, digital consumption and GPS positioning. A fuller list would muddy the visual but other inputs are substantial; health (from fitness trackers), sleep patterns, travel, income, spending patterns, voice records, census, face recognition etc. This 'picture' could become increasingly accurate over time and may be used to 'categorize', influence or predict your future actions.

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

We all hear about data breaches in the news, but an obvious question which is rarely addressed fully and in the light of these headlines is 'what is value of my data, to whom and why?'. This is potentially the biggest question as it ranges from simple theft, exploitation to obvious consumer targeting by commercial companies to influence over groups or society at large. This question is too big for this visual to answer - but it does cover how the data is given more value. Here we see the entity completing a number of tasks. It is busy building and bringing into focus its current target. It is then bottling this information into modules. It is discarding or discriminating against modules where it finds no value or that are incomplete. It is receiving and passing on modules from and to others. It is grouping modules and placing them onto a conveyor belt for storage, sale or later use. To return to the above point - why or how it exploits the value of this information depends on the goal of the entity. This visual is intended to demonstrate how fuller images are compiled, categorized and passed around.

What have you learned through this sketching process? (1,000 characters)

In a society that is increasingly being asked to 'give' personal information away (or exchange it for 'free' services) there is a potential deception that this information is of no consequence and thus should be freely availble. To improve cyber security, it is as important to understand the 'value' of the data, as, it is illogical to protect something where you perceive little or no value.

Tell us more about you. (1,000 characters)

I am a concept designer who loves to create ideas that solve problems.

Why are you participating in this Challenge? (750 characters)

It seems a very complicated subject to understand, let alone convey - thus a challenge. Ubiquitous data and reliance on technology has big consequences which may be both positive and negative. I believe that individuals and groups need to understand the implication of digital security as it evolves and importantly to understand - not only how it can be gathered but what the value of it is to others. If you do not understand why your data is important to keep safe, then you will not defend it.


What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have never worked in cybersecurity before but am excited to learn more and get involved.

What best describes you?

  • I’m a professional visual creator freelancer.

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • OpenIDEO email / social media

Location: City


Location: Country

  • United Kingdom


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


I think the image is very strong in many ways. For me, it is the automated fashion in which it is assembled, represented here by the robotic figure. As a constructive criticism, I wonder if the sources of personal data: banks, facebook, twitter, etc. couldn't also be suggested on the periphery in addition to the abstract symbols.
I am a fellow entrant. If you have the time and inclination, I would love to hear your thoughts on my submission and how you think it could be made better.
I see you have a number of entries. Regardless of the rules of the Challenge, I think it demonstrates a high level of interest and enthusiasm and I wish you the best of luck.

John Messing

Photo of Thomas Grimer

Thanks John. I looked into the rules when someone pointed them out to me. The Ideo team said that the 1 entry rule was put in post launch so not hard and fast. However - the 1 applicant / 1 selection rule is fixed. Re. using icons i.e. Twitter etc. Someone else made a similar comment. I agree, but I don't like using registered logos i. because they date and not always universal ii. you run into issues of allowable use. All in - easier not to use them.

Photo of DeletedUser


Thomas: Sorry for any confusion. I was not referring to entry numbers or rules, but to the specific image of Sketch 1. What I was suggesting was that in the periphery of the image, where there are numbers, and arrows and other computer-like symbols, you might consider also adding small images of buildings to represent banks, etc. so that the places the personal data is collected from could also be visually represented.

Photo of Thomas Grimer

No worries! Re. the rules someone pointed them out to me a week in and I said 'dope' (Homer Simpson style). That said - I found this surprisingly fun to do so no great loss. But yes, thanks for the note - the icons could be more to the point and direct.

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