October 9, 2014

Risa Puno: “Please Enable Cookies”

Risa Puno: “Please Enable Cookies”

Last weekend, in one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods, DUMBO, interactive installation artist Risa Puno sold cookies at an unusual cost: your personal data.

Want a homemade Pink Peppercorn Pistachio cookie? Try giving up your home address and driver’s license number. Would you like a Peanut-Butter Coconut Curry or Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel cookie? Hand over the last four digits of your social security number or your mother’s maiden name.

380 participants paid for Puno’s baked treats, which were assigned different point values, with personal-data forms. Different kinds of information had different worth. An email address was worth one point, for example. A photo of your face was worth two points. A full set of fingerprints was worth five points.

When asked what she would do with the data, Puno referred customers to the back of the form, where a 6-point-font Terms of Use provided an appropriately vague explanation.

Puno calls the project “Please Enable Cookies,” and thinks of it as a play on the way we exchange personal data online—whether we know it or not—via digital cookies for products from companies like Facebook and Google.

As part of our show on big data, we spoke with Runo. Here’s an excerpt of our chat, below:

Some other highlights from our conversation:

What does this project say about the value of data?

You know I’m an artist so I’m not an expert on data or privacy. But what it said to me, first of all, is that we’re willing to give a lot of information for cookies that are simply amusing, fun, delicious, but with no real nutritional value. So maybe that means we don’t value our personal information, or maybe it just means that we place a very high value on entertainment…At the very least, I think it shows we’re comfortable with giving up our data, and using our personal information as currency in order to get what we want, but don’t necessarily need.

What can we do to fix privacy problems?

The first thing is to raise discussions and dialogue about it. It’s also hard because our legal system is designed to move slowly. By nature, you don’t want a country whose laws are always changing. But the laws move so much more slowly than our technology does, so it’s tricky. I feel like some sort of legislation, getting out that way, whether it’s an internet bill of rights or something like that. But I think the first thing is getting people talking about it.

Read the original article about Please Enable Cookies on ProPublica, and be sure to visit Risa Puno’s other projects on her website here.

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