From looking deeply into the content of information captured by GCHQ, I turned back towards consent and the ways in which the security services invade our privacy to discover as much as they can about us. While they may not hack into each individual smartphone in the UK, they still have the capability and capacity to. While doing research, I found an article from August 2015 about Windows 10. The article suggested that, despite being told not to, Windows 10-enabled computers regularly went "online and communicat[ed] with Microsoft's servers." In other words, the computers would send reports and requests to Microsoft IP addresses despite settings intended to allow this being turned off. The article continues to note that some of this traffic is harmless, but also indicates that other traffic is more troublesome, stating "if Web searching and Cortana are disabled, we suspect that the inference that most people would make is that searching the Start menu wouldn't hit the Internet at all. But it does. The traffic could be innocuous, but the inclusion of a machine ID gives it a suspicious appearance." Essentially, when web searching and Cortana are disabled, the computer still sends traffic to Microsoft IP addresses. I, personally, did not find this to be troublesome, but understood the significance of it. As a Mac user, I was aware (and have always been) that my computer sends diagnostic reports to Apple when it encounters a problem. I was interested in finding out the extent to which my computer communicates with Apple and how much it logs each problem on my laptop.
I used a log viewer developed by Apple called 'Console'. Console, which comes preinstalled on every Mac laptop, allows users to "search through all of the system's logged messages, and can alert users when certain types of messages are logged." The application receives a constant stream of messages from the system in the form of log files. These can be navigated to find problems, pinpoint bugs and troubleshoot. Over the course of twelve hours, I documented the problems and other issues that my laptop recorded. In the first hour, 65 A4 pages worth of problems were recorded. After two, an additional 54 pages had been recorded. In the remaining ten hours, 110 pages worth of logs were made. I repeated this process the following day between the same times. In the first hour, only 18 A4 pages worth of problems were recorded. In the next hour, 80 additional pages of logs were made. Over the final ten hours, 122 pages of logs were made.
What is perhaps most unnerving about this piece is the extent to which logs are created and kept without users being aware. Whilst these logs may be harmless and may not actually be sent to Apple, the very notion of having 400 pages containing 8000+ logs from two separate 12 hours periods is incredibly startling. It ultimately begs the question: what has been sent to Apple? What do they know, if anything? It also brings forward a more important issue: users are unknowingly and unwillingly having their data sent to Apple; is there an option for consent? Do users have the ability to prevent reports being sent to Apple, if that is indeed what is happening? The simple answer is yes. According to Apple, information is only sent "with your explicit consent, and is submitted anonymously." Unlike Windows 10-enabled computers, it would appear Mac users have a certain safeguard against their information being sent. What's more, given Apple's recent statement regarding phone hacking and the need for encryption, it would seem as though the company takes a strong stance on data retention and consent. The same cannot be said for Microsoft and the revelations that inspired this piece. Perhaps it's important to question whether Microsoft users have fewer liberties than Mac users? Is the battle between Mac and PC changing to a battle for privacy and security, as opposed to usability and personal preference?
This piece has been displayed on a studio wall on paper as its physical presence brings more of a reaction from audiences. If the piece had remained digital, the full impact of these revelations would not be felt. By placing the logs on the wall, viewers are able to physically see how much a computer works without their knowledge, making them aware of the sorts of activities that may get reported to their providers. Logs have been split up into hourly sections, showing when the computer was most active. In both cases, the logs appear to be most active between 1:00am and 3:00am as these are times when I am often on my computer. If I were to continue with the idea behind this piece, I would continue to print off my logs but would attempt to fill an entire wall. This would achieve the effect that I am looking to portray and would inevitably shock audiences.
Above is an experiment I attempted following the same ideas as the log piece. Every 10 minutes I asked a number of my course mates to screenshot their laptop screens and to tell me the apps that they had open. Each time, I would note down the differences in computer activity. The experiment was, similarly to the above, intending to address the number of logs that our computers make and intended to comment on the Windows 10 article, noting how frequent these logs were. Indeed, students asserted each time I came round that 10 minutes was a shorter amount of time than they realised. The piece was incredibly hard to schedule correctly and involved disturbing other students during their work. The experiment also didn't achieve the result I expected and I quickly brought it to an end, noting that a digital equivalent that did not require human interaction would have been more successful.