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This is the first piece from a new, little series called Metamorphic Reflections. Each piece will focus on one aspect of one feature, and one of the reasons that compelled me (our current collective “us”) to make it.
Metamorphic is an upcoming web app for social connection that our company, Moss Piglet, has been developing to give people another alternative for connecting and sharing with people online.
Our Photos are Tracking Us
Perhaps unknown to most people, the major social networking (media) companies use the location data embedded in the photographs we take with our phones (or any device that embeds location data in the image) to track and locate us.
Now, the embedded location data can have a myriad of beneficial effects and is often used for positive and whimsical things. We typically enjoy the latest photo album features on our phones (or other digital devices) thanks to processes that can extract and make use of this embedded location data.
In the case of our photo album features, we expect (and hope) that this process of extracting location data from our photographs would happen and stay on our phone (device).
But, that’s not what is happening with this process. This process is of a different nature: it is a process that mutates the very innocent action of uploading a photograph to share with a loved one into another means for extraction, profit, and control (or experimentation, or another reason unknown to us, or all of the aforementioned).
It is a process designed to happen outside of our awareness, without our knowledge or consent (their legal terms have granted them our consent but, again, this is outside of our awareness by design).
Now, we can take steps to try and “fight back” against this intrusion into our autonomy, as mentioned in this Forbes article, but the onus is placed on us. Not to mention that it requires that we are informed and autonomous, two things actively stripped from us by these same groups (algorithms if we wish to distance the people behind them from responsibility).
It is easy to imagine that the majority of us will not be successful in preventing our photographs (recordings of our experiences) from tracking us.
Thus, we have become surveilled by our own memories thanks to the clever (and talented) engineering from the major social networking (media) companies.
Metamorphic Reflection #1 — Your Memories Don’t Track You
When you upload a photograph, what we call a “memory”, on Metamorphic, you don’t have to worry about whether it’s tracking you — it’s not.
You simply upload your memory and share it with the people you wish to share it with, that’s it. There are no secret algorithms (“code” written by people) mining it, and thus you, for profit (or other reasons).
Your memory is asymmetrically encrypted the moment you upload it and then stored in a distributed (and further encrypted) system. It is designed this way to prevent us, technologically, from being able to both “see” or mine your memory in any way — just in case we ever find ourselves “tempted” (or coerced through judicial ruling) to change our business model, morals, and sacrifice our integrity (we won’t and technically can’t).
All of this happens outside of your awareness, you simply upload your memory and start sharing it (if you want to).
The difference is that what is happening outside of your awareness on Metamorphic is working for you, to protect you.
Sometimes it feels strangely groundbreaking and revelatory, due to the current social networking climate, but none of it is any of that.
It’s nothing more than designing a system for people rather than against.