Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tracking Transience: Hasan Elahi's Life is an Open Book

In 2002, Hasan Elahi was detained at the Detroit airport when his name had mistakenly been added to the FBI’s terrorist watch list. An art professor at Rutgers University, it took six months of interrogation and nine lie detector tests before Elahi’s name was cleared.

In order to ensure that he wouldn’t be detained again, Elahi, a frequent traveller, began to routinely contact the FBI to advise them of his travel plans. He then decided to create Tracking Transience, a website where he uses time-stamped digital photos to track his own whereabouts. In addition to providing his location throughout the day by posting aerial photographs from Google Earth, he has uploaded his cell phone logs and even his bank statements to the site.

Why? Elahi’s intent is to explore the meaning of identity in an era of surveillance. While Tracking Transience robs him of his personal privacy, it also provides him with a running alibi, should he ever be falsely accused again. For his next project, he plans to post his own genome.

While Elahi’s website may seem radical, the reality is that many people are providing just as much personal information on the Internet in only slightly less overt ways. Whether twittering the details of your every waking moment, posting home videos onto MySpace, updating your Facebook status, paying your credit card online or making a purchase on E-Bay, all of these details could potentially be mined to form a clear picture of your identity.

Instead of looking over his shoulder and worrying that Big Brother is watching him, Elahi has placed himself under constant surveillance.

Photo by mikey_k on Flickr. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic


Anonymous said...

Very interesting - Kim Cameron

Karen said...

Amazing! His site isnt' very easy to navigate, though. The FBI would have to do some real detective work to figure out where he'd been in the past to piece all the pictures together.