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This artist gave out all his login details and passwords to the public. Here's why

Conceptual artist Mark Farid believes our online privacy is the only right we have left – and that’s why governments and companies are so keen to take it from us.

Can you ever really escape your digital identity?

Mark Farid thinks so. On Monday night, at a panel discussion of digital privacy hosted by the University of Cambridge's Festival of Ideas, Farid handed out a stack of A4 pieces of paper to a befuddled audience. Typed out on each were his login details. All of them. All five email addresses. Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, Amazon, Apple ID.

Even if he'd missed a password out, we'd be pretty safe in the assumption it was something to do with Leicester or The Strokes:

After a moment of shock, the audience, me included, busied ourselves on our phones. One man raised his hand to announce that he'd already logged into Farid's Facebook page and changed the password. Within minutes, his Hotmail password was changed, too. I managed to log into LinkedIn, and wondered what to do next. Endorse someone's skills? Send off a scattershot round of connection requests?

From this moment until next April, Farid will try to live without a digital footprint: he will use only pay as you go phones with little or no internet connectivity ("I want a flip phone") and Oyster cards, and will create dedicated email accounts for anything he needs to do online. As far as possible, he hopes to be untrackable. 

 * * *

Farid and I spoke last week about a different, far less personal project, out of which the password stunt grew: Data Shadow. Data Shadow is basically a shipping container, sitting in a Cambridge garden outside the room where we're watching Farid commit privacy kamikaze.

Visitors step inside the container, and meet one of several scenarios, depending on which parts of the technology are working. Farid's favourite runs thus: once inside, your phone automatically connects to a wifi network, which poses as your phone provider. It pulls out your name and recently visited locations and projects them on the wall. At the same time, two more projectors beam outlines of your body on to the walls. One is filled with recent text messages; the other with your photos. “The algorithm is trained to pick up flesh tones,” Farid tells me. “We’re trying to find the most embarrassing pictures we can.” 

You're then asked to make a phone call to someone. As you do, another phone outside the container starts to ring. If a passerby picks up, they can join in on - or simly listen to - your conversation. When the door of the container shuts behind you, your data is wiped from the system, and you receive a text explaining what just happened. 

The project, funded jointly by technology agency Collusion, Cambridge University, The Technology Partnership and Arts Council England, cost £30,000. Only a small portion of this was spent on the technology it takes to hack into a phone. 

Before the talk, Farid and I visit the container, and he hacks into his phone and shows me his own data shadow. As the body-shaped messages and photos flicker around me, I ask Farid if he’s nervous that he’s about to hand over his online identity to the public. Almost no one knows what he’s planning – not even his housemates. “To be honest, I’ve been too stressed to be nervous,” he says. He has deleted emails containing sensitive information sent to him by others, but everything on his Facebook, for example, is still there. We’ll be able to look through his messages, friends, history, photos, and texts.

Farid tells me he's taken out three types of insurance against whatever we, the audience, might try to do with his social media. But there's no insurance against friends and family getting angry about the indirect access the public will have to their life too; the pictures and messages we'll all be able to see. "No, I suppose not." 
 

* * * 

The seed for these artworks was planted when Farid stopped getting stopped in airports. On a school trip to New York aged 15, Farid was held back at border control for over an hour. "They basically asked whether I was a terrorist - 'do you have any firearms', 'do you play with explosives'." 

Over the next few years, something changed: Farid got social media. Now, he is never stopped. Part of the investigation he's carrying out by giving up his online identity is how this will affect the state's treatment of him - now they can no longer assume they know what he's doing, perhaps that level of suspicion will return.

Online surveillance gives those watching the sense that they know what we're up to. Employers may find questionable pictures or posts on your social media, but they'd be even more concerned if they couldn't find you at all. In 2012 German newspaper Der Taggspiegel, pointed out that neither James Holmes (the murderer of 12 in a Colorado cinema) nor Anders Behring Breivik had Facebook profiles. A lack of online presence is, in a word, suspicious. 

* * *

At the talk, Farid explains to the audience that big companies want us to relinquish our privacy, and that this is incredibly dangerous. “Privacy is the most important thing we have. Without it, you can’t do anything. You start to self- censor.” In the US, he tells us, the courts have ruled that the fourth Amendment - the right to privacy - does not apply to non-US citizens. The US can (and does) monitor an endless list of groups and individuals without warrants, including Angela Merkel and Amnesty International. 

During the panel discussion, two examples come up which seem to outline our contradictory approach to privacy. One audience member raises something called the “chat room paradox”, which was first raised in 2007 in the early days of forums and social media: if your child enters a chat room, you want them to be totally anonymous, yet at the same time, you want to know everything about the identities of the other people in that chat room. 

Then there's the fact that discussions of privacy and state surveillance often come down to the phrase "I've got nothing to hide". We assume that only criminals would want privacy from the state. Yet as Daniel Thomas, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, points out, it's no coincidence that Germans are far more cautious about giving up their privacy than we are. "They know - they remember - that the state is willing to collect your underwear to keep in jars in case they needed to train dogs to chase you”. (Ironically, German authorities used this tactic again to track down violent protesters at 2007's G8 summit). In a basic sense, these "odour jars" were collections of "data" used by the state to track individuals. In Soviet-run East Germany, individuals were encouraged to spy on their neighbours. If that state existed now, it wouldn’t need them to.

As a demonstration of this, Farid asks the audience to go onto our location settings on our iPhones or Androids, and see whether our phone has been tracking our locations. I was under the impression I'd switched my location services off, but no such luck:

(To check yours on an iPhone, go to settings - > privacy - > location services - > system services, right at the bottom of the page.)

As it stands, we give up our data in exchange for the convenience free online services and our smartphones give us. "But what happens if you subvert this situation?" Farid asks us, gathering up the stack of papers containing his passwords and preparing to hand them out. "What happens if you give it all up?" 

Earlier, I asked Farid why he decided to take the project to such a personal extreme. “What we’re trying to do with Data Shadow is show that this could have been you. Your data could be mined by anyone. People need to start taking responsibility for that.”  

* * *

As I walk back to Cambridge train station, I open Google Maps. "Google Maps neeeds permission to show your location on the map. Turn on location services to navigate." I hesitate, still holding Farid's list of passwords. Eventually, I turn it back on. 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

This article first appeared in the 29 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the Third Intifada?

Photo: Warner Bros
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Every single line spoken by actor Harry Styles in the movie Dunkirk, evaluated

Judging the actual speaking and acting the from teen icon.

When it was announced that Harry Styles had been cast in Dunkirk, most people assumed it was a Drew Barrymore in Scream sort of deal. A big name, who would be plastered over the posters, front and centre at promotional interviews, but given a barely-speaking part and probably killed off in the first five minutes. Not so! Not only does he not die early on, Harry has a very significant amount of time on screen in Dunkirk, and even more surprisingly, a lot of that time involves actual speaking and acting from the teen icon. In this action-heavy, dialogue-sparse film, he has more lines than most.

Of course, the most normal human response to this revelation is to list every single time he speaks in the film and evaluate every moment on a line-by-line basis. So here it is. Every single line spoken by actor Harry Styles in the movie Dunkirk, evaluated by a very impartial Harry Styles fan. Let’s go.

Obviously, this contains spoilers for Dunkirk.

“What’s wrong with your friend?”

It’s the first line, but it’s a goody. So nonchalant; so effortless; breezily accompanied by a mouthful of toast and jam. Curious, friendly – but with dangerous edge. A lurking threat. A shiver of accusation. This sets up Alex as a normal, if self-assured, bloke who also wants to be sure you’re not about to get him killed. A very strong debut – the kind of line that, if you didn’t know better, would make you think, “Hm, who’s this charismatic young guy”?

A cheer.

Solid 8/10 cheer, believe this guy has cheered before.

“You can’t leave us! Make some room!”

It’s only been ten minutes, but things have really kicked up a notch. Raspy, panicked, desperate, this line left my heart jumping for my poor sodden son. A triumph, and certainly one of Harry’s best lines.

“Hey!”

Here, Alex yells “Hey!” to get the attention of other soldiers, which turns into louder, repeated cries for their attention. I can find little wrong with this “Hey”, and indeed later “Hey”s, but I would not nominate it for an Oscar. This “Hey” is just fine.

“What’s that way?”

I believe that Alex does not, in fact, know what is that way. (It’s a boat.) 7/10.

“S’grounded!”

Alex has delivered the last three shouts with exactly the same intonation. This is good because normal people do not opt for variance in tone when desperately yelling at each other across the beach. I also appreciate the lack of enunciation here. Great work, Harry.

“’ow long’s that?”

I believe that Alex does not, in fact, know how long it will take for the tide to come in. (It’s about three hours.) 7/10.

“Poke yer head out, see if the water’s come in”

Alex is ramping things up a notch – this is authoritative, even challenging. Excellent pronunciation of “aht”, more great slurring.

“Talkative sod, aren’t ya?”

A big line, important for the growing hints that Alex is mistrustful of the silent soldier in their group. And yet not Harry’s absolute best. A little too much forced vowel for me.

“For fuck’s sake!”

Oh my God, we’re here now boys. It’s begun. The water’s not come in. Forget the high-explosive, Alex has only gone and dropped a bloody F-bomb, and Harry’s performance is actually stressful. What an about-turn. Delivered with spitting fury; the “for”, if there at all, almost inaudible; a dropped box clanging to the ground for extra impact. We know that Harry ad-libbed this (and a later) F-word, and this spontaneous approach is working. A truly superb go at doing some swearing. 10/10.

“Yeah but ’ow long?”

I would describe this delivery as “pained”. A little groan of fear hangs in the back. This is, as they say, the good shit.

“Why’d you leave your boat?”

This whispered anger suits Harry.

Some extreme shushing.

Definitely would shush.

“We have to plug it!”

Alex’s heart doesn’t seem really in plugging the bullet holes in the boat, despite the surface-level urgency of this delivery, probably because he doesn’t want to get shot. Nuance. I like it.

“Somebody needs to get off.”

A mic drop of a line, delivered with determined focus.

“I don’t need a volunteer. I know someone who ough’a get off.”

The way his cadence falls and his voice falters when as he reaches the word volunteer. It’s a sad, resigned, type of fear, the type of fear we expect from Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley. Harry’s dropping clues that Alex doesn’t really want to be shoving anyone off a boat to their deaths. But then Alex steels himself, really packing a punch over that “ough’a”.

“This one. He’s a German spy.”

The momentum is building, Alex’s voice is getting breathier and breathier, panic is fluttering in his voice now. I’m living for each and every second of this, like a proud mother with a camcorder. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.

“He’s a focking Jerry!”

Go on my son! Harry’s voice is so high only dogs can hear him now. The mix of fear and aggression is genuinely convincing here, and more than ever it feels clear that you’re practically watching a group of schoolboys with guns scared out of their minds, desperate to go home, who might shoot each other dead at any second. This is undoubtedly the pinnacle of Harry’s performance.

“Have you noticed he hasn’t said a word? ’Cause I ’ave. Won’t speak English: if he does it’s in an accent’s thicker than sauerkraut sauce.”

This is, objectively, the silliest line in this film and maybe any film, ever, and I love it. Never before have the words “sauerkraut sauce” been uttered as a simile, or as a threat, and here, they are both. Inexplicably, it sort of works through Harry’s high-pitched voice and gritted teeth. My personal highlight of the entire movie.

“Tell me.”

Alex is going full antagonist. Whispered, aggressive, threatening. It is safe to say I am dead and deceased.

“Tell me, ‘Gibson’”.

Ugh, now with an added layer of mockery. I am dead, but also please kill me.

“A frog! A bloody frog! A cowardly, little queue-jumping frog. Who’s Gibson, eh? Some naked, dead Englishman lying out in that sand?”

Brexit Harry Styles is furious, and his accent is going a bit all over the place as a result.

“Maybe he killed him.”

Just-about-believably paranoid.

“How do we know?”

This is too close to the delivery Harry uses in this vine for me to take seriously, I’m deeply sorry about that.

“Well, we know who’s getting off.”

I believe that Alex does, in fact, know who is getting off. (It’s the French guy.) 7/10.

“Better ’im than me.”

I agree!!!!!

“Somebody’s gotta get off, so the rest of us can live.”

Empassioned, persuasive, fervent. When glimpsed in trailers, this moment made me think Alex would be sacrificing himself to save others. Not so! He just really, really wants to live. A stellar line, executed very well.

“Do you wanna volunteer?”

Good emoting. I believe the emotion used here is “disbelief”.

“Then this is the price!”

I believe the emotion used here is “desperation”.

“He’s dead, mate.”

So blunt, delivered with an awkward pity. A stand-out moment thanks to my high quality son Harold.

“We let you all down, didn’t we.”

Dahhn. Harry lets us know this is not even a question in Alex’s mind, its a fact. Poor depressed little Alex.

“That old bloke wouldn’t even look us in the eye.”

The weird thing (irony? joke?) here is that the old bloke is actually blind, not refusing to look them in the eye. Slightly bizarre, but Harry rolls with it with this relaxed approach to the word “bloke”.

“Hey! Where are we!”

Good God I love this rousing line. The bell chiming in the background, the violins stirring. There is something curiously British about this line. Something so, “‘What’s to-day?’ cried Scrooge”. Here, Harry is doing what he did best in the early one direction days - being a normal lad from a normal town whose life was made extraordinary even though he’s just, like, so totally normal.

“What station!”

I take it back, THIS is probably my favourite line of the whole movie. Purely because it sounds exactly like Harry Edward Styles on an average day, going about his business, asking what station he’s at. Alex who?

“Grab me one o’ them papers! Go on!”

Now, this, I love. Newcastle brown in hand, f’s dropped, a “go on” barely lacking a “my son”. Put a flat cap on the lad and hand him a chimney sweeping broom - we are in deliciously caricatured Brit territory.

“I can’t bear it. They’ll be spitting at us in the streets, if they’re not locked up waiting for the invasion.”

How rapidly joy turns to ashes in our mouths. One second so elated, with the nostalgic scent of home quivering in his nostrils, Alex is now feeling extremely sorry for himself (fair enough, to be honest). A fine “sad voice” here.

“I can’t look.”

The “sad voice” continues.

“Wha’??”

Hahahahahaha. Yes.

And with this very confused noise Harry Styles closes his debut film performance, which I would describe as extremely solid. Even if I am fuming that he didn’t get to die, beautifully, and at length. Well done Harold.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.