The Consulate of Google

The filter bubble is a phenomenon where websites and companies customize your web content based on your interests. They are able to calculate these interests by looking at your click behaviour and search history. The result is that users unknowingly get trapped in a 'bubble', filled with only things they already know and like, preventing them from learning new things or finding new interests.

These data profiles work in a similar way as passports. Both are strictly personal, unique and they both grant you access to the locations you have gotten permission to.

This was my graduation project for the Royal Academy of Arts (KABK).

Visitors were able to have their Google passport issued by handing over their smartphone or tablet. The consulate would then look up their Google ad profile and generate that into a passport. The passport lists all the data that was found in their ad profile (sex, age group, spoken languages and interests).

I've created a setup in which it is possible to issue a passport within 10 minutes.
Each day, 2 to 3 volunteers (called 'Anonymous Algorithms') would man the consulate and help out with the tasks needed to issue a passport.

To generate a passport, a small program was written with Processing that sends out a printing query after the data is submitted. The passport is printed on an A3 sheet that is then cut and folded into a booklet and pasted into a pre-made gold foil print passport cover. When all is done, the passport gets two stamps. One stamp states the amount of found user-interests, the other one is an invisible UV-stamp for some extra security.

The print in the passport is so small that it becomes nearly illegible for the naked eye. Visitors can slowly discover what Google thinks about them by reading their passport with a digital microscope. Next to that, the passport is also filled with patterns, icons, secrets and visual references to the culture of the nation Google.

Google's database of 2042 interest categories is listed in this passport. However, they're all crossed out, unless the visitor had one of these listed in their profile.

First two photos by Roel Backaert.






















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