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"Our surveillance system thanks you for your daily contribution."

We don't know what can be done with the data we put out there. But we're still putting it out there, because it's so much fun.

Photo of Charlie Gagne
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Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

By now, most people know the real price of using our favourite "free" social media platforms. We give out information about ourselves almost everyday just by being online, and that data is collected to be analyzed and redirected at us in the form of personalized ads. Is there anything wrong with that? It's a small price to pay really, for being able to see what all our online friends are up to all the time. I think there is however, an invisible line between our data being collected in order to make our lives somewhat easier, and having it used against us in ways we don't know about, because we don't really educate ourselves on it, and even when we do, we still just love showing the world what we're up to. I think that with our love of technology, the idea of Big Brother, the all-seeing eye, the father of all surveillance, is almost obsolete. I think that as a society that loves tagging our own location, taking gazillions of photos on apps that detect our faces, accepting cookies without reading the terms, and exposing our children to what will be a lifetime of data collection on them, we have become a collective surveillance system. And we're kind of aware of it, but what's really the worst that can happen? Personalized ads? I want to challenge the idea of "surveillance" by looking at how we're actually constantly feeding that machine by accepting that the information we share with the world is accessible by pretty much anyone, anywhere, and won't ever really disappear.

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

I wanted to show an everyday person using their phone and actually being aware of important things such as reading the "terms and conditions" of social apps and platforms they use. Many people accept these terms and get on with using these platforms. I know I do. But what I want to challenge here is that we don't actually know what can be done with the data collected on us. There are always more scandals, and always more regulations put in place. But the truth is that we don't know the extend of what can be done with this surveillance technology that we enable everyday by using it, now or in the future. Did we think we'd ever be manipulated into voting for a certain President just by using our phones? What else can be done with this technology? Great things, I'm sure, but probably also some very unethical things. With this illustration, I wanted to portray a futuristic train station with a user who is aware of the terms and conditions of the social platform he is using. But there is a clone of him in the train passing through. This would be assuming that after years of being somewhat aware of technology, and yet taking so many pictures through apps, a full 3D person could be recreated from our data. It's a bit unrealistic and scary, but what I think is important is to show that we don't actually know the extent of the technology we're using. And it's all moving so fast (ie the train station) that even when we want to be aware and careful, it's difficult to keep up.

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

I've definitely found that I'm not a natural when it comes to symbolism and analogy, especially when it comes to something complex I'm not really knowledgable of such as cybersecurity. So I decided to stick to the more "everyday use" side of technology. I also found that it's pretty hard to make sure the person in the train looks like the person holding the phone in sketch form! Had a bit of trouble there.

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

I'm a freelance Illustrator & Animator.

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

I'm participating because I had to research what was out there in terms of cybersecurity visuals while working on some projects in the past, and I don't think I really challenged the issue with my own work. I'd say it was some pretty surface stuff that worked well with the brief, visually, but I didn't go very deep into the matter. I'd like to see what else we can come up with now.


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 freelancer.

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • Direct email invitation

Location: City


Location: Country

  • Netherlands


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dima Boulad

Welcome to the challenge Charlie Gagne .Dima here, I am here to support you in the process.
I think both ideas are great and portray the complexity of our responsibility as users within the system, especially the dilemma of the second one with the expression. These sketches are great!
How are you considering finalizing them in a visual technique?
I can’t wait to see how this progresses next, and don't forget to check out Hewlett's tip of the week on the brief page!

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