If the product is free


Our professor Dennis Paul once said „If the product is free, then probably you are the product. This phrase is that simple that even my kids get it“. Undoubtfully there is a certrain truth in it. Private data is valuable and became a main currency in the digital era.

But when we use free apps or services like Facebook and Google, do we really feel that we are doing an exchange business at that moment? Are we really aware of what exact data we are actually sharing?

We decided to put this to a test. During the exhibtion [selbst]Experimente in 2014 we conducted a socioeconomic experiment and tried to find out if people would be willingly trade very private data as easily in the real world as they do in the digital world.

This projects was created in cooperation with Yannick Westphal and Inge RĂ¼ten-Budde.

The Stage

The whole stageconcept is based on the idea to transport the usual „Create Account for Free“ process into the physical world. To make sure people won’t give us false information or skip one of the steps, we had a few Agents controlling the users at any given step.

The User Guidelines

The Data Usage Guidelines are based on the ones that Google and Facebook. In general they allow us to use the given data in any way we feel it is necessary. That includes storing, analysing, selling or using them for other artistic purposes. Of course every user has the right to ask for deletion of his data. See the the full document in german language here: link.

The Userdata

All of the collected user data are informations that can be easily collected by analysing metadata, user habits or usage behaviours on social media, search engines and mobile apps.

Input Form

Using the Data

The collected Data was used in a direct collaboration with a project by Walter Grunt. „Big Data Pile“ was an installation at the [self]Experiments exhibition with three autonomous printers, creating a pile of paper with assumptions about the users character traits. These assumptions were generated by an algorithm that analysed our collected data and searched online for additional information to see if the user was more likely to be a very social person, open to others or concerned about internet privacy for example.

The Data Breach

About six months later the worst case scenario happened. A data breach! The whole data set was made publicly available by anonymous hackers and shown at the open days at the University of the Arts in Bremen in 2015. In an official statement we stated how sorry we are about this mishap and that we have taken the necessary steps to make sure this won’t happen again. So relax, please. There is no need to worry. Your data ist still safe with us. If you still feel the need to have your data deleted, please feel free to contact us.