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Hasan Elahi – identity and privacy in a wired world

Hasan Elahi

When I first started this project back in late 2003, people thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to create this device that would let everyone know where I was at all times and what I was doing. Not even 8 years later, we have over 750 million people on Facebook doing roughly the same thing each time

Hasan Elahi, professor, artist and US citizen one day was questioned at Detroit Airport on his return home trip, as he was suspected of being a terrorist, of course by mistake. He was released but he had to go thought out a lot of interviews with FBI officials and a lot of stuff that we only watch movies.

Hasan was concerned that this can happen again, any time when he goes on some trip abroad. So, to avoid that he started to share his travel plans with FBI. This was quite complicated so instead of calling them, he started to email them his  trip plans. From all this spawned a whole project, which started with automatized website created in 2002.Tthat basically tracked his life and grew so much that today practically every detail is there.

So, we can now say that his encounter with FBI resulted with real life project. This project is reason why Hasan will be with us on Blog Open 2011. Let`s read what he has to say about all.

BO: Probably you answered this question many times before – how did it start?

HASAN: It all started on June 19, 2002 when I was returning from an exhibition in Dakar, Senegal where I was questioned by the FBI in Detroit. I was asked where I was, who I met with, why I was there, etc.. I was also asked about a storage unit that I had and asked what the contents were. The FBI agent received an erroneous report that I had explosives in there. I think anyone that speaks to me for more than a few seconds realizes I’m no terrorist threat. He let me go and I ended up on my plane home (at that time) back to Tampa saying that the local office would get back in touch with me at a later date and we’d get this cleared up.

BO: How do you consider you future trip in Serbia? Do you have any specific expectation or it s just another trip?

HASAN: In December 2001, I went on a short trip to Ljubljana, Sarajevo, and Belgrade. The differences between the three cities were amazing and all three countries were very much in transition in very different ways. I haven’t been to the region since then and quite a bit has happened in the last ten years. I’ve never been to Novi Sad before, but this trip is a great opportunity to see the changes in Belgrade.

BO: You are keeping your life by discovering your privacy. Is it threatened? What your family and friends think about this?

HASAN: As much of my life is out there publicly, I live an incredibly anonymous and private life. There’s so much information about me out there that it all becomes noise at a certain point… and the noise is growing daily, so I don’t feel threatened at all. When I first started this project, my friends and family were concerned, but now many of my friends share way more information about themselves online than I do.

BO: Do you ever get bored uploading all this information about yourself?

HASAN:  Putting my life on display has become as commonplace as checking my email, voicemail, or my Facebook page. It is something that I have internalized to the point where I don’t even know I’m doing it. But I’m not the only one doing this.

BO: How long will it last? Are you planning to quit?

HASAN: When I first started this project back in late 2003, people thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to create this device that would let everyone know where I was at all times and what I was doing. Not even 8 years later, we have over 750 million people on Facebook doing roughly the same thing each time they update their status. To put that in perspective, if Facebook was a country, it would be the world’s third most populous country after China and India. I’m not the only one doing this anymore.

Hasan Elahi will held a masterclass speech at BlogOpen on October 9, thanks to the Embassy of the United States in Serbia.

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