The Personal Data of 346,000 People, Hung on a Museum Wall

Chinese artist Deng Yufeng paid $800 for the names, genders, phone numbers, online shopping records, travel itineraries, and license plate numbers of 346,000 people. He hung them on a wall as a commentary on China's anything-goes approach to data privacy. Deng is now under investigation because art is dangerous!

“When these nuisance text messages become a daily routine, we develop a habit of ignoring and avoiding these text messages in a numb state,” he said in a telephone interview. “This is actually the mental state of most people here: a state of helplessness.”
Last month, Robin Li, the chief executive of the search giant Baidu, set off a firestorm when he said that Chinese people were willing to trade privacy for convenience, safety and efficiency. In December, the software developer Qihoo 360 angered many internet users when a blogger discovered that the company was taking surveillance footage from restaurants and gyms in Beijing and broadcasting it without permission onto its platform.
The rising public anger is taking place amid a similar debate in the United States, over Facebook. But Beijing officials keep the volume lower because personal data is broadly available to another powerful constituency: the Chinese government. Tech companies cooperate with the police in handing over information, with few questions asked. Citizens are resigned to the fact that they are tracked by the government, and there is little pushback about the increased state of surveillance.


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