Tonight is the premiere of David Bond’s new film ‘Erasing David,’ which will also be shown on More 4 at 10pm on 4th May. If you have any doubt in your mind about whether we have already sleepwalked into a surveillance state; about whether there is any truth in the phrase ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’; or the potential for your details to be stolen and misused by criminals; then this is a film you need to see.
Concerned by the implications of the government’s loss of Child Benefit data, David set out to remain hidden for a month whilst being tracked by two private investigators. This wasn’t about hiding in the woods for four weeks, but remaining part of society without leaving a trail of clues. He had the chance to ‘cleanse’ his online records as best he could, such as removing information from his Facebook profile, to receive briefings on the psychology of fear and practical ways to remain anonymous, and to plan his hiding strategy. The detectives simply have to meet up with him face to face in order to win the challenge, and are not allowed to break the law in doing so.
The result is a film that is almost comedic at first, as he comes to terms with privacy problems that those of us in the privacy mainstream have fretted about for a long time now, but then starts to become increasingly disturbing as he reacts to the assumption that all his movements, communications and transactions might be monitored. The private eyes don’t fit the stereotypical image portrayed in American movies, but whilst they come across as gentle and almost amusing, their (perfectly legal – possibly with the exception of the questions arising from dumpster diving) techniques are highly effective.
What surprised me was how quickly David Bond begins to experience the paranoia arising from being watched. Without giving away the plot, there is one point at which this seems rather extreme (bearing in mind that the worst consequence of his being tracked down would be to be able to go home!), but the wider theme of discomfort and behavioural change is food for thought for those that buy into the ‘nothing to hide argument’ when trying to justify surveillance regimes. David Bond starts this project with just a vague sense of unease about the concept of a database state. By the end, his radicalisation as a privacy activist is complete.
Tune in to watch Erasing David on More4 on 4th May at 10pm.