Phala Interactive Exhibit: I Don’t Believe in Your User Agreement

The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Clock is a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked scientific and technical advances. The Clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and the Bulletin’s opinion on how close the world is to a global catastrophe as a number of “minutes” to midnight, assessed in January of each year. — Wikipedia

Phala’s first interactive exhibit work — “I Don’t Believe in Your User Agreement” — became a hit at “Hangzhou Global Blockchain Week” jointly held by Hangzhou government and 8bit. It’s designed by Phala team to remind people that we might be actually live in the “doomsday of privacy”.

We printed 10 User Agreements (including Google, Zoom, and Facebook), pasted on the ground, so people can read the details of them and vote on the TV aside that whether they agree with those user agreements or not.

While all stalls were selling their programs and products, sparing no effort in commercial propaganda, Phala, however, turned their “stall” into a “wasteland”, chose to present a creative work of interactive installation art, to alert attendees to the arbitrary violation of users’ data privacy in the digital era.

Phala Network set up the booth with the theme of “I Don't Believe in Your User Agreement”

“I Don't Believe in Your User Agreement” consists of three parts: a wall pasted with user agreements, a voting screen, and a panel showing the voting results. Among them, the agreement wall is a complete replica of the familiar Internet privacy policies — from wall to floor. It’s such a visual shock that tells you directly: not so many people have the patience to read the User Agreements thoroughly, even if the companies do so intentionally. In the Internet world dominated by big tech companies, we have to bend to these rules, habitually click “I Agree” and “voluntarily” reveal our privacy to platforms.

Every day, we are faced with an issue while enjoying convenient Internet services and digital apps in this consumerist society: both our physical life and physical Identity have been integrated and bonded by the virtual ones, which means, If the digital world does evil, the real one will suffer.

we all clicked “Accept” on the User Agreement before entering the digital world. Under such an agreement, Internet companies would have clear access to all information from the database. However, this kind of mandatory digital control is different from the relationship between the buyer and seller. In such circumstances, our social self-consciousness is weakened and replaced by a frame that forces you to accept the virtual valuation of your personal information. What is even more depressed is: we have been used to it.

It seems like every one of us is Faust in modern society who traded his soul to Mephistophilis for twenty-four years of worldly glory and power. He stabbed his own arm for blood, to write with it in the manner of a deed of gift. Unexpectedly, his blood congealed and he could write no more. On his arm, two lines of Latin appeared, “Homo, fuge” (better escape quickly). Yet shall not Faust fly, he was blinded by greed long before. The pact was made, and all covenants and articles came into effect. Twenty-four years flew, at last, he could only self-complained, “Faust, curse thyself, curse Lucifer. That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.”

Hugh m. Daves, an American art critic, believed that installation art could even be traced back to the primitive Lascaux cave paintings in France. Installation art is an echo of ancient human cultural traditions in contemporary art. The primitive artists did not depict isolated objects, instead, they made movable works to reflect the environment of a certain religion or witchcraft — therefore, various religious temples and churches are also considered as the forerunners of installation art, in which the intervention and participation of the audience is an inseparable part. Installation art is an extension of people’s life experiences.

“I Don't Believe in Your User Agreement” design draft

As to the voting machine and the real-time result panel, Phala further express their concerns towards privacy issues. The device is intended to use interaction and graphics to demonstrate the conflict between the privacy of ordinary users and the interests of large corporations. With the impact of Hangzhou Global Blockchain Week, Phala hopes to stand out with no promotion but turning ourselves into the privacy awareness itself, which also better expresses Phala’s vision: the infrastructure of Web3.0 privacy protection.

Marvin, Co-founder & CEO of Phala Network, claims that his decision to focus on “User Agreement” and “Privacy Protection” stems from his personal anger over privacy leakage. High-tech means of personal information collecting such as remote shooting, drone tracking shooting, pinhole secret shooting and perspective shooting are updating endlessly, especially with the development of monitoring devices, wearable devices, application collection, and other technical means. This is really threatening our rights to live with privacy and sensitive information.

He wished his work could inspire everyone who came to the conference. In his view, the encrypted world should be radical, idealistic, and least-compromised. As art can always be the vanguard to protest social problems, an interactive exhibit on a blockchain conference should not be an exception.

“I Don’t Believe in Your User Agreement” design draft

It is worth mentioning that, unlike traditional art which is keen on expressing the motif of “love, desire and death”, new media artworks are more interested in exploring the “Disease of the Time” caused by modern technology. Such kind of artworks, in combination with multimedia expression, often brings more cross-boundary variability, flexibility, and interactivity for audiences. And “privacy” has been a frequent caller in young artists.

The rise of installation art can also be seen as a reaction against “minimalism art”. If the directness and simplicity of “minimalism” (nihility) reflect the worship of speed and efficiency in the post-industrial society, then in installation art, the concept of “the more, the better” forces the audience to slow down the pace. Therefore, installation art seems to meet the physiological needs and psychological balance of busy contemporary people.

The exhibit was also a tribute to the work of Israeli artist Dima Yarovinsky. Dima printed several user agreements of mostly-used apps (WhatsApp, Google, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram) and laid them down like unwrapped toilet paper, implying this is how we send our precious personal information away for free.

Among the printed agreements, the longest is Instagram’s, which uses 17,161 words in total and takes 86 minutes to read

It is admitted that today the privacy of users is much more valued than a few years ago. In 2018, artist Yufeng Deng held a contemporary art exhibition in Wuhan, which presented 346,000 pieces of personal information that he bought on the darknet to reveal the terrible condition of privacy protection. The exhibition only held for 2 days and was stopped for it’s too sensitive.

In terms of the use of space, although limited by the crowded booth on that day, squeezing the wrapping design into the narrow space still brings similar effect to Bing Xu’s work “Book of Heaven”: the vast space is full of books that cannot be understood so that it can directly thrill the audience through participation.

It’s like McLuhan’s cry: The Medium is the Message! Bing Xu is always creating and demonstrating games that challenge stereotypes: distorted text, visual tricks, the transformation of “small” and “big”. He became famous for his work “Book of Heaven”, which was made out of more than 4,000 Chinese characters as a symbol of Chinese contemporary art.

Through an absurd exhibition that force audiences to read the unreadable user agreements, Phala hopes this provokes everyone to rethink the importance and solution of Web3.0 privacy protection in cyberspace:

I Agree” with a single click, or “I don’t agree” supported by crypto technology?

Contributor: Angelina

About Phala

A Substrate-based confidential smart contract blockchain on which you can develop confidentiality-preserving and privacy-first blockchain apps. Member of Substrate Builders Program starting lineup. Recipient of Web3 Foundation Grant. Phala will be a parachain of Polkadot, freeing the privacy computing power of countless CPUs to provide confidentiality-preserving function for all blockchains.

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