Old-school pagers are still in use today — even though they're wildly insecure. The messages aren't encrypted, so each pager receives every message in its region, and simply discards all the ones that aren't meant for it.
The artist Brannon Dorsey leveraged this insecurity to create "Holypager", an art installation that receives all the messages being sent in Chicago, anonymizes them, then displays them on three pagers in an art gallery — while also printing them on a huge scroll of receipt paper.
While creating this artwork, Dorsey has discovered that a substantial percentage of pager messages today are medical, with doctors and hospitals trading info about patients. This, as Dorsey notes, makes it all the more bonkers that such sensitive material is being transmitted in the open:
Given the severity of the HIPPA Privacy Act, one would assume that appropriate measures would be taken to prevent this information from being publicly accessible to the general public. This project serves as a reminder that as the complexity and proliferation of digital systems increase the cultural and technological literacy needed to understand the safe and appropriate use of these systems often do not.
A video about the project shows what it looks like in action:
Image used with permission of Brannon Dorsey