Erasing David #mdfp



I was invited by Olswang to private viewing of Erasing David which is a documentary about privacy, surveillance and the database state. Made with The Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation

“David Bond lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. He decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear a decision that changes his life forever. Leaving his pregnant wife and young child behind, he is tracked across the database state on a chilling journey that forces him to contemplate the meaning of privacy and the loss of it.” 

The plot is about David, who tries to run away and hide and in the process discovers how his data can be tracked and presents his story. The film will be in cinemas on 29th April 2010, and screened on the UK’s Channel 4 Television on 4th May 2010.


From my perspective it is a dark side story line about privacy, surveillance and liberty, where if you have nothing to hide or fear you will be fine.


This post is not a blow by blow transcript or film critic. As a documentary it brings out some great points, from a clear stance and perspective; if you are concerned, be really concerned. However, here are a few take aways....... Some I don't agree with!


·         Focus on how much (data) is sensitive rather than how much is held

·         How to hide privacy is not a decision on what to hide but what you should expose.

·         You have very little control over information or authority to determine what can (or not) be found. In reality to control your privacy you need to control your friends, as most data can be acquired and friends leak. The picture of your life is the combination not your just what you give but what others give up.

·         Information is services.

·         Tracking people requires people.

·         When all stable, all is good. When it goes wrong (data is wrong or mishandled) - this is the problem, corrupt and in-accurate data is a significant issue.

·         Primary use of data is to find more ways to sell or make processes more efficient.  (little naive)

·         Ability to opt out does not help you, missing data still allows a profile to be built.

·         What do you have to give up (free services) to not give up data. 

·         People lie to get your data.  Data raped. Data is cheap.

·         Nothing is new, data has always been available. Corruption is not the main option today, but misrepresentation and fraud work.

·         Combination of data gives the picture. 

·         Liberty and privacy; are they fundamental?  Absence of privacy, what does this actually mean. 

·         Looking after data, what they know vs what data they have.

·         Tech has reduced budget and time to find out what has always been on record and increased the number of sources.

·         Low tech is beautiful and depends on the stupidity of people.  Technology is not the issue, people are the weak link.


As a comment, this documentary could have been a high tech fantasy, breaking into bank accounts, tracing payments or travel cards, bugs and tracking but it stays true to life and was low tech in so many ways, showing how easy it is to  reach your data because your are lazy and that human error is the weakest link. 


Link to MyDFP – dark side is real, however so is using your data to create value.  I focus on the creative value adding side.


Wendy Grossman did a write up as well here