Planetary Futures Goals 2030: Empowered Data presents ‘Turtle’

Blending futures-thinking and radical collaboration Futures Studios bring students together to explore the futures of technology, society, and creativity. Together with UAL Futures and IAM, participants’ collective mission is to define a set of Planetary Futures Goals — and activate creative projects.

Empowered Data is 1 of 4 Planetary Futures Goals created by studio participants in 2017/18.

Empowered Data exists to help everyone take back control of their digital selves. From reclaiming ownership of information, to helping people track their data footprint, our aim is to help people by empowering their data.

We’ve heard many people saying, they are freaked out by the amount of security cameras we have installed around London. It comes naturally to feel uncomfortable getting spied on. When it comes to the virtual world, however, we seem to care less. We find ourselves feeding blindly our personal data into the system with little or no awareness of where it is going and how it is being used.


So do we care less or just don’t know better?

There is a lack of transparency in the usage of the data that we share on a daily basis. Yes, there is the small print, the immensely long terms and conditions that include the privacy policy. But honestly, who ever reads those 20 pages every time before using an application?

This shady ‘transparency’ strategy is not the only problem we are confronted with. In today’s data driven world, we are faced with various ethical issues. Data brokers collect and trade information that many people would hope to be private — from browsing history to court cases. Many big corporations like Facebook collaborate with data brokers in order to target advertisements in a more personal manner. Yet we understand this kind of data appropriation as a form of exploitation because it has created a multi-billion industry but yet leaves the people without a comparable compensation.

So how can we take back control?

Working for these starting points, we came up with an idea : TURTLE.

Turtle is a new app which is redefining the connection between people and data. And watching your back! We believe that everyone deserves to have a choice. We want to give people back control of their data.

So what exactly is Turtle helping you with? Think of Turtle as a data ad blocker for your phone, computer and life. It detects when a company, app or website is taking your data and stops them in their tracks. You have the final say in whether they can have your data or not.

In 2030, data collection and scraping has become much more of an issue in everyday life. The internet of things has turned everywhere into a information goldmine. Turtle aims to address these problems.

Our app breaks down the information that you are giving away in both physical and online environments. Showing you exactly what data is being taken from you. Whether it’s your route to work, shopping list, or your personal details from a health app, Turtle lays it out clear and simple who is taking what. You then have the choice block or allow the data transaction.

For a better understanding of how the app works, we will take you through a day in the life of Ines in 2030.

On a Sunday morning Ines decides finally try the Turtle app which everyone has been talking about. She installs the program on her phone right before a trip to the supermarket to buy some food. As she enters, a notification pops up informing her that her shopping route and purchasing are being tracked. She has a choice to either block this transaction or continue giving her data away. A message from the shop explains that if she accepts, she will be rewarded with a discount for her purchase (after Turtle’s release, the companies have been trying to find ways to tempt users to supply them with their data).

Ines is a little surprised, she didn’t realised that shops could track her activities in the physical world. She thinks about this decision for a moment and then accepts. She receives a 90 p discount on her shop. Turtle saves her answer to avoid future requests.

After lunch, she opens her health app to record down her caloric intake as usual. A pop up appears showing the types of data that the app will be taking from her (weight, height, date of birth, heartbeat, fitness level, menstruation cycle and BMI). A message states that they are using this data to create a better user experience. She is at first concerned but she decides to accept anyway as she has been using the app for a long time and she trusts it.

To relax during the end of her lunch break, she opens instagram to post a picture. Turtle informs her of the types of data the app will be taking from her : pictures, facial recognition, eye tracking etc. She blocks the data straight away because she thinks it is too intrusive.

In 2018, you would not be able to keep using the app without giving away your data (insert mark Zuckerberg gif). However, in 2030, you have the tools and knowledge to take back control of your data, thanks to turtle’s influence on the digital landscape.

Turtle team working on the Futures Studio Summit 2030, Central Saint Martins, London, March 2018.

Read more about Empowered Data:



Collective projects produced by UAL Futures Studio participants in 2017/18.

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