January 2, 2019

Library to Host Glass Room Experience: Detox Your Data, Protect Your Privacy

By Donald Gilpin

The Glass Room Experience is coming to Princeton Public Library (PPL), January 7-27, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the dark side of the digital world and learn about how their data is generated, harvested, traded, and sold every day.

The interactive exhibition, created by Mozilla and Tactical Tech, is an art installation that shows the impact of technology in day-to-day life and provides a visual representation of a variety of hidden phenomena related to data and privacy.

PPL is one of 25 libraries nationwide hosting the exhibition, which will be installed next week on the first floor near the welcome desk.

Features of the exhibit, based on Glass Room installations presented in New York, London, Berlin, Prague, and elsewhere around the world, will demonstrate the scale of companies behind the platforms visitors use every day, provide an understanding of what data can be gleaned from selfies, and reveal what people agree to when they click “I agree” at the bottom of the seldom-read users’ agreements.

One highlight of The Glass Room Experience is the opportunity to detox your data. “Do you feel your digital self is slipping out of control?” asks the Tactical Tech website. “Installed too many apps? Clicked ‘I agree’ too many times? Maybe it’s time to visit a data detox bar.”

The data detox bar to be installed at PPL will include monitors, tablets, and a data detox kit providing an eight-day digital makeover.

“The Glass Room,” according to Tactical Tech, “is an immersive ‘tech store with a twist’ [and nothing for sale] that disrupts our relationship with technology and encourages visitors to make informed choices about their online life. The Glass Room prompts reflection, experimentation, and play.”

Other elements of the exhibition, in the form of posters, interactive tablets, and 3-D installations, will include Fake or Real (where you can find out how smart you are in the world of smart devices), The Internet You Don’t See, The Zuckerberg House, The Real Life of Your Selfie, and the Alphabet Empire, which shows all of Google’s investments in the form of a giant dot-to-dot puzzle. 

“Freedom of information and privacy are very important to us,” said PPL Public Programming Librarian Janie Hermann, lead organizer of the exhibit. “When we decided to host this exhibit, we realized that data is being collected constantly, and we want people to stop and think about what’s being collected and why. They need more control.” 

Noting multiple issues with social networks and the information they collect, Hermann contended that people need to think more about the long-term implications of data that is being collected.

She pointed out that the PPL does not collect information. “If you check out a book, after you return it we don’t have a record that you’ve checked it out,” she said. After 9/11 she noted, there were cases of the FBI and government authorities going into libraries to investigate whether people had checked out suspicious books. 

“As a library we are concerned about protecting the privacy of our patrons’ information,” she said.