I would like to use a concrete exampel: In the area business and finance we have honoured the loyalty card system 'Payback'. 'Payback' has 12 million members and is the biggest system in Germany with partners like supermarkets, cinemas, gaz stations, department stores, drug stores, book stores, internet provider and an auction house. Merging the data from all different data bases allows to create a comprehensive costumer profile. To participate you have to sign three different things: "My details are coorect", "I agree with the conditions for participation", "I agree that my details will be used for the purpose of advertisement, marketresearch and marketing." By signing that I release the company from following the law for data protection.
C.S.: What is your personal approach? And where do you see the need for action in the complex and intransparent information sphere?
R.T.: As artists we are dealing with computers and networks since 1985. Computers were opening up a new world, and we were assuming that this new world is not yet finished, that is possible to create and influence the development. Even if you are not a building speculator it is possible to set a marking, to have impact. So we created a platform for all our activities which is FoeBud e.V.
Our work takes different approaches. We have built networks, which were free and belonged to the people who used them, we have collaborated on software to run those networks, called Zerberus, and we have provided encrytion. It was important to keep as much as possible freedom for the users so that they would not be ruled by techies.this should be assured by software. From Zerberus the next logical step we took was to PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), because an encrytion system on a server was not enough. Point to point encrytion was required. So we made the German translation for PGP and the accompanying book was growing and growing with a lot of extra information on legislation, data encryption for hard discs etc.
C.S.: How do you finance your work, i.e. who was funding the Big Brother award?
R.T.: The first award has been completely financed through means from our own organisation. Mailing, website, public relations, research and documentation, but meanwhile we have applied for public funding from different institutions. What we try to mediate is that it is also the task of democracy to take care for it's preservation at this point. Private sphere, or what in the national census verdict has been called 'informational self-determination' is an essential requirement for the continued existence of democracy.
Published in: mute Magazine, Critical Information Services, issue 21, September 2001