Paranoia or Art? Bangladeshi American Hasan Elahi has decided to pre-emptively prove to the FBI (or any other shady wire-tapping federal agencies) that he is not, cannot possibly be, has never been, a terrorist. In order to do so he is doing the FBI’s job for them (quite convincingly):
Hasan Elahi whips out his Samsung Pocket PC phone and shows me how he’s keeping himself out of Guantanamo. He swivels the camera lens around and snaps a picture of the Manhattan Starbucks where we’re drinking coffee. Then he squints and pecks at the phone’s touchscreen. “OK! It’s uploading now,” says the cheery, 35-year-old artist and Rutgers professor, whose bleached-blond hair complements his fluorescent-green pants. “It’ll go public in a few seconds.” Sure enough, a moment later the shot appears on the front page of his Web site, TrackingTransience.net.
There are already tons of pictures there. Elahi will post about a hundred today — the rooms he sat in, the food he ate, the coffees he ordered. Poke around his site and you’ll find more than 20,000 images stretching back three years. Elahi has documented nearly every waking hour of his life during that time. He posts copies of every debit card transaction, so you can see what he bought, where, and when. A GPS device in his pocket reports his real-time physical location on a map.
Elahi’s site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list — and once you’re on, it’s hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. [Link]
p>Ok, I’ll be honest. The first thing I thought of was whether or not this project is helping Elahi’s love life. I mean, I could just imagine some girl coming up to him and saying, “Wow, isn’t it funny how we just keep running in to each other like this? Must be fate!” (Abhi curses himself for not thinking of this first). Elahi’s logic for starting the project is flawless:
The government monitors your movements, but it gets things wrong. You can monitor yourself much more accurately. Plus, no ambitious agent is going to score a big intelligence triumph by snooping into your movements when there’s a Web page broadcasting the Big Mac you ate four minutes ago in Boise, Idaho… [Link]
p>In somewhat related news, Google Maps today unveiled a new feature called “Street View:”
This morning Google gave their 2D maps an incredible realworld addition. Its a street-view, that in certain cities, will let you get a street side view of the area you are currently in. This is not just a static, A9-style image. It will also let you move along the street in a smooth manner and even more amazing it will let you change your angle and continue moving that way. This will be formally launched at Where 2.0 later today. [Link]
p>I’ve been playing with it all day to see if I can figure out what that one cute chick is doing (and to make sure she isn’t a terrorist). However, I guess some oversensitive people are a bit, ummm, perturbed by the feature:
The new Google Maps zoom feature zooms all the way into my living room window. See cat on cat perch.
I’m all for mapping, but this feature literally gives me the shakes. I feel like I need to close all my curtains now. I’m going to look into whether it’s possible for a person to have pictures of their home removed from Google Maps. [Link]
I’ve been telling Ennis for a while now that we need to get curtains for our North Dakota blogging headquarters. I wonder if India is going to flip over this too?