Having addressed the scale of data and the loss of identity as a result of data, I wanted to explore the ways in which all this data was useful. One way I found was through surveillance. All this information was helpful for the government in their desire to keep the country safe. People’s internet data, specifically, was something I knew the government wanted, and so started to look into this.
I read and took note of a wide variety of articles surrounding internet data and security and found myself in the midst of a heated debate. The government was looking to bring in new internet laws that would give internet providers the ability to keep hold of everyone’s internet data for 12 months. Whilst they insisted that the data was not readily accessible, I found that a large majority of people were upset by this concept, insisting that it was against their right to privacy. In a speech in the House of Commons, Theresa May, the current Home Secretary, regarded these changes as simply “an itemised phone bill.” Journalists like Joshua Rozenberg, Heather Brooke and Simon Jenkins wrote extensive articles explaining that these new laws made it seem like “Orwell lacked vision” and that they would require “some great national emergency, and the most stern oversight.” It was Theresa May’s comments, however, that inspired this piece.
This piece is exactly what the Home Secretary described: an itemised phone bill. I placed 12 pages outlining my internet history from 22nd November 2014 to the 22nd December 2014 inside an envelope. Whilst the bill does not show exactly what pages I visited, it tells viewers the name of the website, and the number of times I accessed it on that day, something that Theresa May made clear in her speech. Whilst the piece is not intended to oppose the new laws, or even comment on them, it is there to show what these new laws could do. This piece, like my previous pieces, is more concerned with spreading awareness rather than creating/dictating an opinion. I, personally, am not against the new bill as I have nothing that would suggest I need to be surveyed. The piece is simply there to inform people in a satirical way that the government wants to have and keep hold of their internet data.
The internet history that the letter has printed is not the most important aspect of the piece. It is more what can be assumed from the information that is important. For example, on the 18th December, it is shown that I have been on the Lambeth council website, as well as the O2 Brixton Academy website, a range of parking websites and a ticket selling website. From this, one can assume that I am going to an event at the O2 Academy and am planning to drive. Similarly, on the 25th November, I visit a number of music production forums and photography forums. It can be assumed from this information that I spent some time of the day producing music, as well as using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. The power that one could have with this information is difficult to grasp, but is incredibly important. Based simply off a few factors, it is easy to assume what my interests and hobbies are.
This piece differs from the other works in that it is not so much centred on audience participation. Saying this, however, the process of getting the letter out of the envelope and going through it gives it meaning and, ultimately, establishes the notions it attempts to put forward. This piece is similar, however, in the fact that it is politically motivated. Like the questionnaire and the information wall, the itemised internet history bill is inspired and centred on a political idea. What is interesting with this piece is how different people react to it. Some do not care about the ideas of surveillance and privacy, whereas others are terrified just by the concept of losing it. I wanted to explore this further. I wanted to know where people on my course stood with the topic of surveillance.