Small Data on a Large Scale - Torn between Convenience and Surveillance

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Abstract

For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost. Or in other words: Is the data that we so freely offer and hand out worth the risk of being transparent to profit-oriented businesses and governments worldwide? Is the value proportionate to the data trails we leave? Can and should our personality be represented in data points?

Inspiration and Method

The Internet as a technology is not transparent - ungraspable in a way- Most people use the Internet daily - in fact, some are completely unaware that their devices are synching datapoints to the cloud. With the lack of technical understanding of the Internet, the idea of data collection is hard to relate to, let alone surveillance. These insights led to three strategies that informed ideation: understanding the Internet, telling a story of data points, and exposing business interests for data collection.

Result

The thesis envisions an update of the Firefox browser - with privacy at its core. It protects the user through blocking trackers and providing curated views on each website a user visits. Here, the usage of data by the service provider is explained, rated, and put into context; options to opt-out of data collection are provided. Beyond that technical transparency and protection, users can explore their personal data stories to learn about the inner workings of the Internet and business practices online.