Kyle MacDonald is a 25-year-old with a master’s degree in electronic arts. For his most recent art project, he installed software on 100 computers at two Apple Stores in Manhattan which would take a webcam photo every minute and, if a face was detected in the photo, the computers would upload the photo to MacDonald’s server. He then started a Tumblr page called People Staring at Computers. He says, “I thought maybe we could see ourselves doing this we would think more about our computers and how we’re using them.”
If you’re thinking that uploading software on a hundred computers you don’t own to take and publish pictures of people who didn’t sign consent forms might get you into trouble, congratulations; you thought this out more than MacDonald did. Yesterday, the U.S. Secret Service showed up at his door with a search warrant for suspected computer fraud. They seized two computers, his iPod, and two flash drives then told him Apple would be contacting him as well.
MacDonald says he doesn’t think he committed fraud since he asked security guards and some customers at the Apple stores if they’d mind if he took some photos. What he didn’t clarify is that he meant he’d be installing software on 100 computers which would take one photo per minute (including photos of many people he may not have spoken to). Mashable also says, “If someone sees themselves in his collection and wants to be removed, he will remove them.” So he’ll put your photo on the forever internet, but you can opt out once it’s already too late? In other words, he’s going to have a hard time convincing anybody he got informed consent for every photo. He can argue it was a public place, so those people had no reasonable expectation of privacy, but then he still has Apple to contend with for installing software on their computers. This dude is so boned.
You can watch a video MacDonald made about his project below. Put it on mute. Or don’t and find out what music to play when you want to force people to leave a party:
My ears are bleeding, and my webcam doesn’t know why. Who listens to this music on purpose? Is there anyone on Earth who hears this and says, “That’s my jam!” If so, I want to punch them.