In 2013 at the same time as Edward Snowden leaked information about mass surveillance, I worked at ZEIT ONLINE an German online newspaper. So I could see in my daily work how difficult it was to inform people about their privacy issues. Nobody seemed to care. My hypothesis was that the whole subject was too complex. There were no examples, no images that could help the audience to understand the process behind the mass surveillance.
This project tries to solve the issue by raising awareness through a fictional surveillance software and its possible consequences. The main aim was to visualise how the surveillance agencies work and how easy a normal citizen with his or her personal data can come into focus of government agencies.
After the theoretical research, I collected the leaked information from major news outlets to get deeper into the subject. The information was overwhelming and I had to figure out how to deal with such a big amount of data. I decided to design an information graphic to understand the structure and methods of mass surveillance. The resulting infographic gave me the chance to show how the collected data can be formed into information and how that could look like. Those patterns helped me to start with the design of the surveillance interfaces and their content.
As a private person, I learned to think about what data I want to share. I accepted the fact, that every data I put online could be possible available for anybody. I started to reduce the usage of different online applications like Foursquare or Instagram. I also tried to find alternatives for different online services like email or cloud storage. As a designer, I learned that I’m responsible for my clients and their costumers. We have to think about what client data we really need and how we use and store it. As a data visualiser, I learned that big data is maybe the spice of the 21st century, but the important task is to ask the right questions. Any data can be misused and we should find the right ethical approaches to deal with that. It is not about the charts we produce, it is about their meaning and the actions others come up with through them.