Garnet Hertz's "Experiments in Surveillance Capitalism: Device for Calling the Department of Homeland Security"

Images provided by the artist.

Artist and scholar on DIY culture and technology, Garnet Hertz, has a new piece opening up at York University, Gales Gallery, Toronto tonight. The piece, entitled "Experiments in Surveillance Capitalism: Device for Calling the Department of Homeland Security" is part of the exhibition "Disruptive Design & Digital Fabrication."

This system uses custom electronics to programmatically speak search terms into a seance-like ring of a dozen Google Home smart speakers. The system searches for controversial search terms that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are reported to monitor. The idea is that these "red flag" keyword Google searches will attract the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, or CSIS. This system plays with the fear that individuals have about privacy with contemporary smart devices. Related to this, in Canada there have been recent concerns about Huawei's ties to the Chinese government in regard to 5G network infrastructure — but it is worth also considering how companies like Google collect, synthesize, and sell our private information.

Here is the concept art for a larger version of the piece. The image above is of the scaled-down version which is part of the Gales Gallery show opening tonight.