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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 Charlie Gagne

Hi Dima! Good question. I was thinking for the first concept, that I'd make the screened buildings look more like a colorful and futuristic, neon-y night-time version of Times Square. I think that'd be fun because it could almost be something some people would aspire to, like the prize of a contest, "Participate to our contest by submitting all your pictures and information about yourself and run the chance to get your picture shown all over Times Square". I think that portrays the strange relationship we have as a society with fame versus privacy. We are aware that the lines of privacy are constantly blurred with more and more "surveillance" scandals everyday, and we know we're contributing to it, but hey, me and my kid could be famous!

And for the second concept, I think I'd make sure there are more people in the train station, maybe in one common color to make sure my guy and his clone stand out as exact copies, skin color, hair, outfit and all. I also typically work with bright colors and simple organic shapes, and a friend pointed out that I'd probably have to go a little darker\grimmer with this, but I think it would actually be interesting to present these darkish concepts in my usual bright tones. I'm not actually trying to be alarmist and negative, actually in contrast, I'm just trying to show that all of these potentially scary things are happening right in the middle of our generally bright happy lives, and we need to educate ourselves.

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