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The Internet is not. free

When you give in to surveillance capitalism, you give up your private life.

Photo of Caroline Matthews
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Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

I work on incredibly tight deadlines, usually 2-4 hours to illustrate editorial concepts. I like using texture and filters in Photoshop to alter stock images. Textures help direct tone. The content directs color. Colors specify mood, tone, political party, etc. This concept is focused on the scale of surveillance.

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

Is censorship a form of surveillance? If the media is editing our present through omission, who can we trust? The singled out laptop with beam of light concept explains that we as users can still be singled out in the giant digital sea. The newspaper clipping concept is a bit of a stretch, but I was going for personal histories trimmed and manipulated for economic gain.

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

I usually work with super restricted color palates. I had fun playing outside of those. I learned I need a lot more time to simplify my thoughts into a single image.

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

I am a product designer and former editorial graphic artist. I hold a Master's degree in Communications design and a Bachelor’s in Journalism. Whether I'm reading the frontend code of a website to find high-res assets or interviewing users for research, I am an investigative journalist at heart. Open water marathon swimming is my meditation. Wheel-thrown and hand-built ceramics are how I balance the pixel pushing of my day job. I love the intricate, special communities of New York.

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

I think my creations are stale and I've exhausted the same symbols and icons. This challenge came at the perfect time. The guidance would be refreshing. Getting your help would make me feel special.


What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have minimal experience and/or knowledge in the cybersecurity field.

What best describes you?

  • I’m a professional visual creator affiliated with an organization.

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

Location: City

New York, NY

Location: State / District

New York

Location: Country

  • United States of America

What opportunity areas are you covering with this final portfolio? (250 characters)


Final Portfolio (1,500 characters)

During my research on the topic surveillance, I was rattled. Karsten Nohl, director of Security research lab says, "I cannot accept that people have given up having a private life. If we want to preserve a private sphere, we must learn to defend it very actively. If we do nothing, and let the younger generations be unaware of the importance of private lives, then soon private lives will be worth nothing at all" ("An Eye on You: Citizens Under Surveillance." Alexandre Valenti. 2015). I wanted to create a visual that was both informative and alarming. The target audience are those that are the most vulnerable to abusive data surveillance: those that grew up sharing online as digital natives. That's also the largest population segment of smartphone users: male and female digital ages 18 to 29-years-old. In an effort to match the challenge's goals of creating visuals, the posters are void of words, just a URL. The messaging is revealed when viewers integrate their digital device into the experience by visiting on their smartphones and scanning the AR icon. POSTER 1: "BITE THE HAND THAT NEWS FEEDS. Your digital shadow is exploited." POSTER 2: "USERS UNITE! Give a sh!t. Write your Congressman." POSTER 3 "NO PAY. NO PRY. It’s time for companies to share their wealth from your data." Your digital shadow, the likes you give the images you post, is exploited as economic incentive. It is the younger generation that is our only hope for change.

How would you summarize your final portfolio in 100 words or less? (650 characters)

Both informative and alarming, the PSA "The Internet is not. free" calls users to grapple with their digital shadow.

Briefly describe your imagined use case for the work in your portfolio. (250 characters)

The work is a Public Service Announcement. Ideally, the posters are wheat pasted in urban areas. The audience,18 to 29-year-old male and females, is invited to interact through AR code. They are the largest population segment of smartphone users.*

What was the most useful feedback that you received? (1,000 characters)

My mentor, Burton Rast, said my art direction and tone can go in either one of two ways: scare or educate. He prompted me to explore visuals from the DADA movement of the early 20th century and WWII and Cold War propaganda posters warning citizens "loose lips sink ships." He also advised that requiring a user to download an app risks losing the audience to the hassles of dowload time. He directed me to AR because it can be implemented on any website via libraries like AR.js.

How have your concepts evolved since the Ideas Phase? (1,000 characters)

Yes. Tremendously. I TALKED to people. I asked them how my work was making them FEEL. I gave myself a whole five days instead of just 2-4 hours like my typical deadlines. There was room for research and play. I became immersed in the subject matter and have a great fear of surveillance.

How have you been able to incorporate technical accuracy into your concepts? (1000 characters)

Interviews and conversations with cyber security experts beyond my mentor helped align my creative vision with technical accuracy. Donie O'Sullivan, CNN reporter, wanted me to stay away from the word "lobbying." He said lobbying can be good and it already has a bad reputation. He honestly couldn't answer me when I asked "What can we do to make change?" He had no clue, and his beat is politics and tech. I was shocked. Jose Pagliery, Univision investigative correspondent, gave the insight that "data is like personal property; think of the colonists who demanded property rights." He helped me fine tune language, swapping Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" with "No Taxation without Representation." He suggested the concept "No engagement without reimbursement." Jose was essential in helping me understand user engagement and privacy: I wanted to incorporate QR codes and he informed me that kind of technology is a cliche and is like email SPAM.

How do your concepts expand the conversation on cybersecurity? (1000 characters)

The concepts are thought provoking, which was my true intent. They ignite conversation among peers about their fears. That fear pushes them to research how to create change on their own. There must be a solution to protection and the audience is empowered to make change.

If you were provided with additional time and resources, are there additional ways that you’d wish to reimagine the visual language of cybersecurity? (1,000 characters)

I wish I had more time to explore AR.js to understand innovation within that interaction. The data alone to fuel AR is the exact data I am fearful of. Face recognition. Exact location. And sharing of personal interests.

What resources did you find most helpful? (optional, 1,000 characters)

Mentorship and interactions with other cohort members via Zoom. Creative Commons webinar via Zoom. Personal research: "What does it mean for social media platforms to sell our data?" Kalev Leetaru. Forbes Magazine. 15 December 2018. "'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism." John Naughton. The Guardian. 20 Jan 2019. "An Eye on You: Citizens Under Surveillance." Directed by Alexandre Valenti. 2015. This portfolio work has been modified from images by NASA and Rugen Afanador and published in Vogue, Foreign Affairs, Wired,The New York Times Magazine, Bon Appetit and Uzbek & Rica magazines. The intent is for educational and non-commercial use. *according to

Commitment to Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0)

  • Yes, I ensure that my portfolio is in compliance with CC BY 4.0.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dima Boulad

I'm so glad to see the progress of this idea and the sketches into your final portfolio Caroline Matthews .As the review team is going through all submissions, I would like to take this chance to thank you for your participation in this Challenge and your dedication to this important and complex topic. Watch this space as we announce the top picks!

Photo of Sark Asadourian

I like the style more of the first on. I would be cool if you did both images in the same style. It seams hard to do that but the first one is just amazing.

Photo of Dima Boulad

Welcome Caroline Matthews Happy to see your contribution to the Cybersecurity challenge. Very nice style! How would you consider pushing this idea further? We've had a large number of very interesting creations, have you had a chance to browse other submissions? There's a very interesting conversation around cybersecurity going on!