Benjamin Grosser’s new site serves as a reminder that when you read the web, the web’s also reading you.
If you’re home alone killing time on your laptop with the shades drawn, no one can see you, right? Wrong. Artist, programmer, and composer Benjamin Grosser’s latest project forces us to confront the uncomfortable reality of our digital trail with his new project, Tracing You. The piece consists of a website that, when you view it, displays an image of the location nearest to the IP address of the site’s most recent visitor. Basically, this webiste might show you a picture of your own house. The piece, which Grosser describes as, "a computational surveillance system that presents a website’s best attempt to see the world from its visitors’ viewpoints,” was created for Grosser’s solo exhibition at Paris’ Galerie Charlot. The show featured works critiquing government surveillance tactics, and included another piece called Scare Mail, a browser extension that ads NSA keywords to everyday emails in an attempt to disrupt government surveillance.
Every website records the IP addresses of its visitors. Tracing You works by following our IP addresses to our locations, using them to find first our global coordinates and then, through Google, street photos or satellite images of our locations. Accuracy varies—the image you see may be of a location a few streets away from your house, or if you’re in an area that’s not been thoroughly documented by Google Street View, you may see only a satellite photo taken from above. Still, it’s a pretty creepy and very timely work, more relevant than ever in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in Paris, which once again have forced the West to measure how much we value our privacy versus our security.
For more information on Benjamin Grosser's work, click here.