By Foteini Vergidou
In 2017, when net neutrality was repealed from the FCC, the privacy of our data was marked as a lost paradise. The new broadband privacy rules require from Internet service providers and websites to share and sell our personal information, like our history data , for reasons beyond our will.
Net neutrality held its significance on the very concept of cyber-democracy, since it protected freedom of speech online, allowed equal access to all and preserved even treatment to all Internet traffic. Naturally, the way Internet has evolved, it has become part of our culture and plays a significant role in our definition of who we are.
According to James Bridle’s project “Citizen ex,” we hold two citizenships; one on our passport and another one on our IP address.
Therefore, the main question is still very current, of what happens to our data when we go online and how our information gets policed.
Back to net neutrality, its repealing means that businesses with different interests are now able to mute or even block opinions with which they disagree. Of course, this affects minorities that rely on the open Internet to be heard, as the LGBTQ community and artists, whose work depends on the Internet.
The art world has replied to the new regulations with petitions, protests, and even artworks, like POLIMBO from the DIS collective, a Tinder-like project that allows users to decide their position on net neutrality with emoji reactions.
While many of them see a potential escape on the Darknet, Kyriaki Goni proposes a new approach through her work “Deletion process_Only you can see my history” (2014-2015), demanding the right to disappear online.
Kyriaki Goni, a cross-media visual artist, researcher, and educator from Greece works for the last years on surveillance, citizenship, and personal data within digital realms amongst other topics.
Deletion process_Only you can see my history comments on digital privacy, the right to be forgotten and the control and distribution of personal data.
The work is based on the artist’s Google search history between 2008 and 2013. Most of these searches are personal and somewhat banal, at the same time. However, this search history composes a rich and detailed user profile on Google’s data centers. Google Inc. assures users that their search history is strictly private as it states on its website: Only you can see your history.
The work runs live on her website, where everyone can see and delete Goni’s personal search history. Visit the work here: kyriakigoni.com/history
On the website viewers/users are invited to decide whether they will participate in the deletion process, supporting this assistive oblivion, being at the same time challenged with the option of a digital deletion. The work is very relevant today since the new European personal data regulations come into force in May 2018 and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives individuals the right to be forgotten.
The work is completed in three parts. The research, that was presented in July 2016 at SIGGRAPH, the 43rd international conference and exhibition on Computer Graphics & Interactive Techniques, in California and was published as an art paper on Leonardo 49:4, The Journal of the International Society of the Arts, Sciences and Technology.
The second part of the work is the Deletion processes as workshops. There, participants work on their personal datasets, especially personal search history, experimenting with the material and gaining awareness on privacy issues while entering a deletion process themselves. The workshops' material is included in the design of new deletion processes.
Finally, the work explores Data as material in its third part. After the searched terms and pictures get digitally deleted, they get printed on paper. The printed data are framed and sold, as a comment on the distribution and control of the personal data. Of course, screenshots from the website are also produced as a series of digital prints.
The work was exhibited widely, from The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale, the UCSC Digital Arts Research Center in California, the Athens School of Fine Arts and the Michalis Cacoyannis Foundation in Athens, amongst others.