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Is the risk worth the reward?

If you get what you pay for, what are the hidden costs of getting things for free?

Photo of Jason Kravitz
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Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

The lure of getting something for free has been an influence in the success of the Internet, while also leading to some of the most damaging misuses of personal information. Many people don't consider risk at the slightest offer of reward. Consider the way that stores ask for increasing amounts of private information for a rewards card. Similarly, social media promotions offer enticing giveaways in exchange for personal data which is then vulnerable to 3rd party sharing and data theft. This idea of encouraging people to consider risks vs. rewards envisions a series of visuals which illustrate the point that free often comes with strings attached. The first rough sketch is a mouse in a maze of personal questions and information required to get to the small reward. Other ideas for this series could play with the concept of "strings attached", or perhaps show someone advertising "Free" something but the recipient has to jump through a series of "hoops" by answering personal questions to receive the gift. This idea also touches on destructive social media trends which have come to light in the last years regarding the way an innocuous fad like filling out a quiz, or uploading a photo of one's self at different ages, could be misused in unintended ways such as predatory marketing purposes, or even non-consensual training of AI and machine learning algorithms.

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

Thinking on these lines reminded me that this is somewhat a narrow case of a much larger issue in that the balance of risk is really at the heart of every security matter (digital and physical). The difference is that in the physical world, people can better grasp the consequences of their choices. For example, deciding to park the car in a sketchy neighborhood might give someone pause, but visiting websites without a VPN on a public WiFi network likely would not be of much concern. Perhaps one objective of this project could be to illustrate to people the real risk involved in their digital interactions. One thing I've heard again and again is "I have nothing to hide", or "Why would anyone hack my computer? I have nothing on there." This is problematic when people realize (sometimes too late) just how much of their life is digitally connected with only a few safeguards between safety and disaster.

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

I have worked in the Cybersecurity industry for nearly two decades and in recent years was responsible for communicating complex security topics to customers and the general public. Starting around 2011, I became increasingly aware of a much larger number of data breaches being reported as compared to past years. I started to track these in a database and created a unique data visualization to convey the impact, frequency, and attack types of these security incidents. Since then, I have left corporate employment to focus my attention towards other creative pursuits with photography, dreams, and the study of human consciousness. I am the founder of, a photography community with thousands of photographers from over a hundred countries, as well as Zoom In Reach Out, a youth outreach program which educates underserved communities about photography and connecting through imagery.

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

While I have shifted my focus outside the Cybersecurity industry, I am still an advocate for raising awareness for the safe use of technology. I can empathize with the need to create a better visual language for non-practitioners to better understand the issues and how they relate to each and every one of us. As a photographer, I have sometimes considered how to better depict cybercrime outside of the same overused tropes, though had not yet taken the opportunity.


What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have considerable 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?

  • In the news

Location: City

Lawton (and Brussels, Belgium)

Location: State / District


Location: Country

  • United States of America


Join the conversation:

Photo of Patrizia Russ

Cool! :) Reminds me of pacman. Could even some monsters be hidden in the labyrinth which want to catch you/ your data and symbolize a bigger threat? Or maybe some holes in which you can fall down as threats?

Photo of Jason Kravitz

Thanks Patrizia. I like that idea of additional "monsters" which is a good representation of another major issue in cybersecurity in terms of well intentioned campaigns still doing a poor job at securing all that sensitive data they are collecting.

Photo of Dima Boulad

The maze imagery works well Jason Kravitz , I'm wondering how typography can aid your visual better. Perhaps a bigger font can lead the eye inside the maze better? Kindly note that as per the terms and conditions, all images uploaded have the must be original to the entrant, and not copied, in whole or in part, from any work of another person or entity.

Photo of Jason Kravitz

Thanks Dima Boulad  for the helpful feedback and reminder about original assets. I've created a new version of the graphic without any 3rd party assets and upped the font size of the words for better visibility. I also swapped the mouse/ cheese for a "$5 prize" to illustrate how people would give up a lot of sensitive information for a fairly trivial prize.

Photo of Ben Banks

Jason. I like the maze imagery. Perhaps (copyright allowing) pacman might be a good visual metaphor. The individual as the pac man eating services and the Ghosts wandering about. Just a thought.

Photo of Jason Kravitz

Indeed, could be another way to visualize. Thanks Ben.