Friday, October 31, 2014

Futurist Friday: A Graphic Look at Big Data and Privacy

Sometimes, in this job, I get dang tired of reading. That's one reason I so often feature videos in Friday's periodic glimpse of the future. 

Next best thing to video? Pictures. So I was tickled to stumble across "Terms of Service," a graphic novel, by Michael Keller, a reporter for Al Jazeera America, and Josh Neufeld, a nonfiction cartoonist. 

In this 46 page e-booklet Michael and Josh look at the way we are becoming accustomed to trading personal data for access to "free" services like Gmail. They review the (brief) history of how this issue has exploded over the last 10 years, and digs into "the unraveling theory," which postulates that "once enough people reveal their information, then NOT revealing your information becomes a stigma." When does privacy flip from being a basic right to being proof you have something to hide? 

Don't think that just because this is a graphic novel it is light weight. Michael and Josh incorporate interviews with scientists and reformers including Scott Peppet (University of Colorado, Bolder), danah boyd (Microsoft) and Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Mellon), 

So, your Futurist Friday assignment: flip through the comic (excuse me, graphic novel) and think about the following questions:

  • What are you willing to give up your privacy for? Access to "free" services? Lower insurance rates? And conversely
  • What is worth giving up in order to retain your privacy? 
I'd love to see your answers to those questions, in the comments section, below, or on social media: you can Tweet me @futureofmuseums, or start a discussion on the link I've posted to the CFM Facebook page. Or you can keep your opinions, you know, private.


Rachel Ropeik said...

For another fun and thought-provoking way to look at how much personal information we give up regularly, check out artist Risa Puno's project, "Please Enable Cookies" (

It's fascinating and delicious all at once.

The Alliance's Center for the Future of Museums said...

Thanks for sharing that project, Rachel! For a more literal, less fun, but probably more scary look the topic, I'm tempted to try the "no data diet" challenge