After being subjected to months of interrogations by the FBI and INS following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., Bangladesh-born American artist Hasan Elahi was not charged with any crime, but asked to keep the agencies abreast of his whereabouts.
So Elahi did just that, starting by informing them about a trip he was taking, and then creating a whole Web site, as Elahi explains in a New York Times article this Sunday, that would chronicle his every move.
Where he goes, where he eats, what the toilet seat he used looked like. Every debit card transaction, what he bought where and when. No detail was too small to record. “You want to watch me? Fine,” Elahi writes in the Times. “But I can watch myself better than you can, and I can get a level of detail that you will never have.”
The artist, whose art covers issues of surveillance, borders and frontiers, thinks the U.S. government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list back in 2001.
And while he hasn’t been detained since he started the site, Elahi says the server logs at his site still show regular visits by the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office and the Executive Office of the President.
The images on the site number 20,000, a tremendous amount of personal data about a single person’s life. But Elahi has deliberately left the data disorganized, presented at random, so that is not so easy to piece together.
“By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life,” he writes. “In an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up.“