People on the Street Read App Permissions Aloud in State of Disbelief

People on the Street Read App Permissions Aloud in State of Disbelief

You never know what your apps are trying to do behind your back, a filmmaker shows

Rachel Pincus
  • 6 february 2015

Any writer knows: there’s nothing like reading something out loud to uncover meanings that you never noticed before, or, if you wrote the thing yourself, intended. A similar rule goes for app permissions, which for many smartphone users don’t even get enumerated in one place. Instead, in the case of iOS, you might get randomly asked about them, in ways that either make sense (Instagram using your camera) or don’t (some news website is using your location data!?).

A filmmaker named Ivan Cash, working in partnership with Silent Circle and the creators of the “NSA-proof” Blackphone, decided to use a little man-in-the-street reportage to discover just what people have been agreeing to these days. He said in an email:

I watched the film Citizen Four (Edward Snowden documentary—which I highly recommend) back in November, and felt super inspired to help raise awareness about data privacy, an issue that people may hear a lot about, but can’t necessarily relate to or connect with. So I contacted Blackphone’s ad agency Chapter, who had reached out to me earlier in the month, and expressed interest in working together.

They said “yes!”, and commissioned me to create the film, which I think does a good job to make the issue more tangible and personal, since viewers can see themselves in the people I interviewed.

The result, #PrivacyProject, is an excellent conversation starter on a topic that people prefer to ignore. You can watch the reactions of everyday people to their own lack of digital privacy below.

Cash prefers to call the video a commissioned piece rather than being sponsored, and with his enthusiasm for the issue of digital privacy, it’s not hard to see why. With his strong track record of political mini-documentaries, he was ready to do a passion project, and he sought out Blackphone himself because they “are a company that represents data privacy,” he wrote. There was very little promotion of Blackphone in the interviewing process.

Lastly, he added some words to the wise in his email:

Tip #1: Always review your app permissions
Tip #2: Update your phone’s OS and apps whenever possible
Tip #3: Be mindful of free Wi-Fi
Tip #4: Enable any remote recovery/wipe/shutdown tools
Tip #5: Strengthen your phone’s passcode by adding extra digits

Cash Studios // Ivan Cash // Blackphone // Silent Circle

+Ivan Cash
+privacy project
+Raise Awareness
+Silent Circle
+smartphone users

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