Wow, South by Southwest (SXSW) is one helluva whirlwind event. Luckily, between screenings my schedule allowed for a quick chat with David Bond, whose film Erasing David had its U.S. Premiere here last night. The documentary, which the director concedes is something of a sensationalist thriller, deals with the issue of modern privacy in a world where we are obsessed with sharing so much of our personal information.
In the film, David opts to “drop off the map” as it were. Two of the best private investigators in the U.K. are given his picture and his name, but nothing else. While the film crew follows them around, they must find David who is doing everything in his power not to get caught. Within hours of them beginning their assignment, they gather more information than he originally thought was possible. They even started a fake Facebook account for David, spoofing his friends into giving them leads to move forward on.
Lucky for us (or for me, really), the U.S. ranks much higher in terms of privacy awareness than the U.K. Surprisingly, the U.K. is the third worst country in terms of availability of private data in the world. Their competition? China and Russia. This may seem startling, but the U.K. does have CCTV cameras all over the country recording almost every public area. With facial recognition technology slowly being integrated with the system, David purports, it is only a matter of time before our social networks become meshed with state infrastructure.
The fact that this film is receiving such a warm reception at a conference such as SXSW says a lot about how much of a paranoid Luddite the director isn’t. After all, the Interactive wing of SXSW is where Twitter and Foursquare, a geo-location social network, were launched. All day long people are sharing their location, their thoughts, and perhaps even more sensitive data than they realize on their mobile phones as they wander about the Austin Convention Center. But as I said, Mr. Bond is no Luddite. He is simply more aware of these issues after his experience of making the film. It is his hope that the film’s audience will be more aware as well.
Erasing David will be screening again on Tuesday, March 16th at 11am in the G-Tech theater. The film is also available VOD through Amazon during the festival. For more information on both the film and issues of privacy and information, you can check out the film’s Official Website.
Photo Credit: Amanda Lockhart