Here's what millions of leaked passwords look like, and other scenes from inside The Glass Room

Bob Sullivan

It’s very hard to make privacy and security sexy. The folks at Mozilla and the Tactical Technology Collective have done just that this month with a clever art installation/ pop-up shop in lower Manhattan called “The Glass Room.”

The Glass Room aims to inform and challenge visitors by making them see and touch real-life representations of digital risks, the same way you might wander through an art gallery and ponder other life mysteries.

Visitors there are forced to look at an encyclopedia-style pile of books in which every password stolen from LinkedIn is printed. They are listed alphabetically, so every few minutes someone exclaims when they find their password printed in the volumes.


The point is really the sheer size of that hack…which was indeed quite a bit smaller than Yahoo’s hack announced this week.

Other works include a fitbit attached to a metronome, designed to fool the gadget’s supposed health predictive abilities; Where the F&^&* was I, a printed book showing all the places the artist had been during a year, according to the cloud; and a screen showing data on leaked by smartphones as people walk by outside.

Maya Indira Ganesh gave me a tour of the place

“It’s an art exhibition that’s trying to shine a light on what it means to live in the data society, ” she told me.  It’s also trying to scare folks a little bit.

Not all surveillance technology is bad, of course. The Glass House tells both sides of the story. Video monitors can help you check in on elderly family members, for example.  But you should always wonder: Who else is watching, and why?

Thankfully, The Glass Room includes a detox bar in the back, with Apple-store-like “ingeniuouses” there to help you fix the privacy settings on your gadgets.  They also offer an 8-day data detox kit, which I’ll be sharing in the future.

The Glass Room first popped-up in Germany before making its way to Manhattan this month.  The store closes this weekend, but you can browse the entire exhibit online.  And, better yet, you can watch the videos I’ve attached to this story.

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