Ambient Privacy

AMBIENT PRIVACY (a term coined by Maciej Cegłowski) is a physical index of my voice search history over the ~4 years I’ve been using the technology. When displayed, it consists of 689 index cards, stationery suitable for annotating these cards, and headphones playing the entire audio archive.

It is intended to ask the viewer/listener to consider two perspectives.

The first is the view of a life heard only through these 689 audio clips, recorded as queries to a corporation through its devices. These queries are to either an always-on microphone purchased and placed in my home, or to my phone, a similarly-attentive device. It reveals an off-kilter portrait of a person through only snippets of a life. From these, they will form their own incomplete narrative of a person’s life.

The second perspective is that of someone tasked with assessing this same voyeuristic archive for money, through work for the company who made these devices. Engineers, Designers, Marketters with access to these recordings - their job is to fix and improve this corporate surveillance so that more money can be made from it. This physical index tries to imagine the result of their work - a human layer of surveillance and skewed insight on top of the strictly digital, all to further improve the mechanism of surveillance capitalism.

The archive can be examined and understood in a number of ways, providing potential insight into both the way the technology is used, the way the relationship of the user with it changes, and even how the technology itself is silently updated. While it’s possible to understand all of this from the audio and metadata, the system purposefully obscures any insight into who else has else listened to it, what conclusions they’ve drawn, or what work they undertook to improve this system of surveillance.

Who is listening?