Interview for "NIN" (Serbia)
about "Face to Facebook
You recently finished Face to Facebook project. Could you briefly explain what you did as a part of that experiment, and what was its purpose?
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Paolo Cirio: We just stole one million public facebook profiles, and with this huge database of names and pictures of random people from all over the world, we analyzed the facial expression of each of them by face recognition software.
Afterwards, we republished on a dating website the resulted best faces organized by their supposed characters. At the end of this process 250000 persons were on a cheesy dating website characterized by temperament, like smug, sly, etc.. and without knowing it!
By doing this we received 5 death threats and 11 legal lawsuit ultimatums, one by the world's most powerful corporation at present: Facebook. At the same time the artwork has been covered by mass media all over the world, giving a new perception about Facebook that challenges it as a safe and nice place where too many people give away their data without thinking of the related dangers.
What is the future of the social activism on the Internet?
PC: I always thought that the Internet is a great democratic tool, and it allows people to be able to inform and to express as never before. I always thought that the Internet can actually boost a great social evolution and makes this world a better place. I still believe that, however, since there are enormous commercial interests and authorities prone to social control, the Internet has become a place not really free as I used to think.
Although, it's the intrinsic nature of the networks and the digital content, that can't really be kept under control, to have a natural attitude to be free, we will see a permanent war between trying to make internet a prison always surveilled and a place where people start revolutions. It's just like a public space, and as social infrastructure, it can be seen as a public square in a city. Where people gather together is where they start to talk about and organize their life together, and in the other side, you have other kind of people that would organize the people by forcing them to do what they want. Activists should use the Internet as they used to use the physical streets, where they know that it's a dangerous place for doing political activity, but it's also the place where most of the people are that need to know about an alternative better organization of society.
What is concept "human hackers"? What are they doing?
PC: The word "hacker" started to have two meanings since it became so popular a phenomenon. General speaking hacker became defined as a person who uses technology, especially the internet, for doing criminal activity. This one is the over simplification that the mass media usually gives to the meaning of hacker, thanks also to the wide cheap fiction that has been produced about this character. However, originally, and for people interested in media as positive tool for social change, "hacker" is a person who uses technology, and in general, any tool creatively for doing things that usually the devices are not expected to do. In short, hacking could be considered an activity that brings innovation and progress. But of course, it's meaning is too obscured that now no one is really sure what it exactly means to be a hacker.
In the end, do you have similar plans for the future? Or did FtF complete the trilogy?
PC: Management of information will always play a bigger role in the future. I'll probably work on that again, and probably with also other kind of media, and outcomes. However this trilogy defined a unique artwork, as usually trilogies do; the single pieces are linked together by common aesthetics, methodologies and subjects. So for sure the next project will have other unique kinds of characteristics.