You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

#PDF14 Preview: An Interview with Artist and Technologist Adam Harvey

BY Sonia Roubini | Friday, May 2 2014

Our latest #PDF14 speaker preview features Adam Harvey, an artist, technologist, and designer focused on countersurveillance and privacy issues. Adam also runs the The Privacy Gift Shop, an online marketplace for countersurveillance art and privacy accessories. He will be joining us on the main stage at #PDF14.

1. How did you come to be interested in tech and its impact on society?

I became interested in the impacts of technology through working as a photographer. My first job in NYC was working as freelance photographer. Through these experiences I became acutely aware of how our relationship to cameras was changing and evolving. Until recently, photography had been a way to remember notable moments. Today, in the face of mass surveillance, we face a new struggle which is how to not be remembered. And now a lot of my work is about how to hide from cameras, face detection algorithms, and thermal imaging systems.

2. What's the most satisfying part of your work?

The most satisfying part of my work is the people I meet through research and collaborations. To belong to a community of people who share similar ideas about art, privacy, and technology is an extremely satisfying part of what I do.

3. Do you think your art has been effective in raising awareness about surveillance issues amongst people who wouldn't pay attention otherwise?

I've been surprised to reach so many different audiences with my work. It motivates me to learn how my work impacts other people. I hope that my projects not only raise awareness, but also inspire next steps. For me, the measure of effective art is that it leads to even more effective artwork. And so on.

4. What are the key issues tech and politics/society to pay attention to at the moment?

One key issue I think we need to pay attention to now is our ability to defend against surveillance. But to defend against it we need to understand the technology that enables surveillance. Once this becomes common knowledge, I think the desire for good privacy and security will have even more significant impacts on commerce. But, in addition to innovation, we also need to draft laws that guarantee our right to important, and untampered with, technologies like cryptography. Secure and reliable communication is an essential part of any democracy.