What kind of data is collected, and how?

A project log for Maelstrom: 35 machines discuss you

Using sensors, scrapers, and questionnaires, this art installation gets your data--and spreads rumors about you with NRF24L01+ radios.

chris-combsChris Combs 02/03/2021 at 17:330 Comments

With "Maelstrom," one of the hardest parts has been striking the right tone. I want visitors to understand that their data can be gathered and reused in ways difficult to predict, but I also want their visit to be a rewarding experience--and not too scary.

The installation passively listens for these kinds of data:

If you interact with the WiFi network, Maelstrom_PUBLIC, provided by the installation, it can further sense some attributes about your device:

The captive Maelstrom_PUBLIC network also asks you to provide these details to "sign in to the network":

You can use a card-scanning station to detect attributes from a credit card or ID card (with a visual "2D barcode" on the back):

And several machines use attached cameras and the face_recognition Python library to monitor for faces. I didn't go too far with this yet, since it doesn't work well with masks. These are not currently associated with visitor dossiers, but are shown on dedicated screens (the End-User License Agreement shows them in a "Thank you for agreeing!" box; a Maelstrom FR-Class machine shows them as tiles).

All of these data are only retained for 15 minutes, and populated into text written by me, using either Chevron/Mustache (for HTML output methods) or a simplistic templating language similar to Mustache (for text/audio outputs). 

There are a few machines which show the full dossier data that the machine knows for each visitor, but most of the displays will only show or speak whitelisted attributes that I included in the text templates.