Plutonian Striptease / Introduction

Art Meets Radical Openness (Liwoli 2011)
Plutonian Striptease

Guests Friday 13 May
Marloes de Valk - and
Owen Mundy -
Dusan Barok -

Guests Saturday 14 May
Nicolas Malevé -
Margaritha Köhl -
Pippa Buchanan (Mozilla Webcraft) -
Birgit Bachler -

'Plutonian Striptease' is a 2 evening lecture series, filled with short 30 minute lectures on social media, online privacy, the data market and the economy of open systems.

We all share a lot of information with others online. Not only voluntarily and consciously via public parts of social media, but also unknowingly, by searching, purchasing, browsing... And on top of that, non-public parts of the web are being scraped to complete the already very detailed profiles data brokers and listening companies have on us.

"You have zero privacy anyway, get over it." (Scott McNealy, as chief executive of Sun Microsystems , 1999)

The open web, heralded for it's transparency, interoperability and decentralized nature, is not just about being open and accessible for the benefit of us all, it also happens to greatly facilitate data harvesting, tracking, scraping, data mining, profiling and behavioural advertisement. This facilitation is fuelled by, and fuels a booming industry. There is no single and clear definition of what the open web really is, and maybe that is because of it's paradoxical nature. On the one hand, there is a strive for openness driven by an ideology for the public good, on the other it's driven by commercial goals.

Compared to the speed with which the data market is growing, legislation to protect users from invasion of privacy is light-years behind. Making an 'opt-out' or 'do-not-track' option mandatory would be a good start. But even if the law were up to speed, is it possible to properly enforce such laws? It would require a close look into the code of every application and online service accessing a users personal data; a police raid of App Store, Android Market, and the like. A 2010 study by Pennsylvania State University, Duke University, and Intel Labs showed that out of 30 randomly selected popular Android apps that access personal information, fifteen of the apps reported users' locations to remote advertising servers and seven applications broadcast the handset's device number or phone number to outside servers (Eck W., et al, 2010).

To some, the trade-off between personal data and free services paid for through advertisement is more than fair. You get as much back as you give, convenience comes at a price. The problem is that it has become almost impossible to make those trade-offs consciously and with a good idea of what the consequences will be. Online, it's hard to tell when you're leaving private space and entering a public one. The 'I've got nothing to hide' argument proposed by those involved in the 'privacy versus security' debate, is not easily matched with a one-liner explaining the value of privacy, this is a more complex and abstract story, and as pointed out by Bruce Schneier, the real choice is liberty versus control (B. Schneier, 2006). He points to two proverbs that say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

This lecture series investigates these issues and showcases art projects making the hidden world of data harvesting tangible.

Enck W. et al., 2010, TaintDroid: An Information-Flow Tracking System for Realtime Privacy Monitoring on Smartphones , [online] Available at: [accessed 14 April 2011]

Schneier B., 2006, The Eternal Value of Privacy. [online] Available
at: .[Accessed 14 April 2011].

Plutonian Striptease has been organised by Marloes de Valk, and is the follow-up of a series of interviews published on, asking experts, owners, users, fans and haters of social media about their views on this topic.