Tag Archives: Privacy

Creating fake passports from your personal data

This robotic installation will steal and share your data — with your help. 

The brainchild of ECAL student Martin Hertig, Sensible Data is a unique project designed to show just how easily people are willing to give up their personal information in exchange for fun. The playful installation collects a user’s data, judges their mood, age, gender and beauty, and creates a faux passport that is also randomly sent to another participant without them knowing.


If you think about, what really happens when you openly give your name, numbers and other information online, and where does it go? Although the experiment was done intentionally to test a small sampling’s confidence in how data is collected, it does highlight a much broader privacy issue that exists today, especially in the wake of several mainstream leaks.

The Maker’s exploration is comprised of three machines that are essentially modified versions of the Piccolo CNC, an open source drawing device based on the Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). Meanwhile, a Raspberry Pi acts as the brain of the installation, running a Python script for every step of the process. Each script listens to the desired input and relays the plotting commands to the necessary gadget.


How it works is pretty straightforward. First, a participant snaps a selfie with an iPad that’s automatically synced up to a Raspberry Pi using Dropbox. A Python script takes this picture and converts it into a line drawing with the help of OpenCV. The user is then prompted to send a blank email to the project’s iCloud address.


From there, the person’s face is analyzed. Upon receiving an email, the Raspberry Pi transmits the previously taken image to the Rekognition API. The facial recognition program is able to properly determine one’s mood, age, gender and their beauty, which is measured as a percentage. This information is stored in a database and inked onto the novelty passport letter by letter using a laser-cut stamp-wheel.


Last but not least, the participant is asked to press a dubious button that is actually a fingerprint scanner. Once the validation step is complete, an email with a matching participant’s data including their fingerprint, photo and email address is sent to the user. (Absurdly, the matchmaking is determined by the amount of lines in the portrait.)

The idea is that, when encountered with a decision, more times than not people are willing to just hand over their likeness, not knowing what will be done with it. Intrigued? Check out the entire project here, and be sure to watch it in action below!

This device lets you send encrypted messages using social networks

Project Cuckoo looks at our interactions with intercepted social networks and how alternative ways of communicating might change them.

A new project from one Berlin-based designer has set out to explore our interactions with intercepted social networks and how alternative ways of communicating might change them. Created by Jochen Maria Weber, Cuckoo is a device that uses social media as a means of private communication, and encrypts messages into randomly generated words, meanings and noise in order to scatter them over multiple networks simultaneously.


The idea was conceived back in 2011 after Icelandic politician and activist spokesperson Birgitta Jónsdóttir was notified by Twitter that it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice demanding information around all her tweets since November 2009.

“Heavy data collection, surveillance and control became normal and more important, increasingly legal on most internet communication platforms,”  Weber writes. “What if we used social networks but hiding our actual information? What if we could use their infrastructure without divulging privacy?”


With Cuckooeach letter of an original message is immediately translated into complex forms of certain length forming new sentences, which are then posted to their respective social channel, next to randomly generated noise-sentences for distraction. The device also enables the encryption method to be changed with every new message. Any receiving unit following the respective social network accounts can filter and decrypt the important posts according to their encryption method and timestamp. Cuckoo combines these social networks to build a hidden one on top of their infrastructure, or as the designer puts it, “an egg in the others’ nests.”


The project was brought to life using the combination of Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) and Temboo, along with Twitter, Skype and Tumblr APIs. Interested in learning more? Head over to its official page here. Meanwhile, be sure to check it out in action below.