For many, browser history can be a deeply personal thing. You'd probably like the world to know that you frequent The New Yorker's website often, but the fact that you watched every Spice Girls video YouTube has to offer, maybe not so much. That's probably why Googling "delete browsing history" brings up so many search results.
Why are we so ashamed of our browser history, anyway? We do have a lot of anxiety about online privacy as a society and may fear, deep down inside, that it doesn't really exist at all.
Big Data, a paranoid electropop music project fronted by producer Alan Wilkis, taps into those fears with the new Google Chrome app Nice 2 Hack You. The app takes all of your browser history and turns it into a cartoonish infographic with a sick twist. You then have the option of keeping your infographic to yourself or releasing your browser history to the world.
Think you're going to need a huge incentive to reveal that kind of information about yourself? There's a download to a special remix of Big Data's new single "The Business of Emotion" and a Big Data T-shirt in it for you if you do.
Nice 2 Hack You is a promotion for "The Business of Emotion" off Big Data's debut album 2.0 released in March. The song was inspired by Facebook's controversial secret mood experiment that the social network conducted on nearly 700,000 of its users for one week in January 2012. In the experiment, Facebook manipulated its algorithm to show users either positively skewed or negatively skewed posts in their News Feeds to analyze how the stories affected what users posted.
"Basically, the Facebook mood experiment kind of just revealed how our data is being abused and mistreated, and oftentimes without knowing it and oftentimes for unsavory purposes," Wilkis told Tech Times during a phone interview. "Nice 2 Hack You kind of deals with the same general idea of the mistreatment of our data and the erosion of our online privacy. It makes art out of that, and it makes sort of a glaring point of it."
Wilkis enlisted the help of friend Rajeev Basu to create and direct the Nice 2 Hack You project. The two also collaborated on Big Data's last app Facehawk, which turned users' Facebook photos and statuses (after getting their permission, of course) into an animated hawk in a personalized music video for Big Data's first single "Dangerous."
Since Nice 2 Hack You does deal with something as scary as exposing your browser history to the masses online, Wilkis and Basu wanted to keep the look of the app as friendly and childlike as possible to encourage users to share their results. The app's promo video, which features narration from a child, is reminiscent of children's programming and early computer animation, such as that seen in Dire Straits' iconic 1985 music video for "Money for Nothing." The brightly colored drawings of the infographic give it an overall playful feel.
But watch the video or stare at your infographic long enough, and you'll soon see that there's something ultimately perverse about them. The video shows pills, guns and Ku Klux Klan hoods as examples of what could be lurking in your search history. The infographic similarly frames a user's browser history results with imagery of sex, drugs and violence.
"That sinister undertone, that’s really kind of a big thing with Big Data in general. Pretty much everything I present, everything that I write in the songs and the lyrics, I always want there to be this sinister undertone," Wilkis said. "It's like it'll be playful in the same elements that help draw people in, and the sinister stuff is there to kind of hint about what we're actually talking about. That kind of is how it's working online. That is how our data is being used. We're using apps online and using software online that is really fun to use and it's all about our friends and it's all about sharing, but there is this like sinister thing happening with our data.”
So have fun with Nice 2 Hack You. But not too much fun.
Correction: This article originally stated that users would be entered for a chance to win a T-shirt by sharing their browser history results with Nice 2 Hack You, but all users that share will receive a T-shirt. Tech Times regrets the error.