In front of a red facade crowned with flowers, a thirty-year-old forces his smile. David Welly Sombra Rodrigues poses at the entrance to the Temple Bar, a pub located in the center of Dublin, Ireland. It’s a habit.
Between two planes, this Brazilian, a French teacher, never misses an opportunity to immortalize a tourist visit. He then shares the photo with his approximately 7,000 followers on Instagram. But this time, recount Tea New York Times, the shot had an unexpected success.
“I didn’t know I was being filmed”
His portrait ended up on the Dries Depoorter website. This 31-year-old Belgian artist recovered it and attached it to an almost identical image. It had been taken in the same place and at the same time, but from another angle, by a camera. To retrieve it, all he had to do was go to EarthCam websitea New Jersey company that specializes in bringing live footage to every corner of the world.
Thanks to this process, applied several times, The Follower project (“the follower, the subscriber on social networks”) shows “everything that can be recorded by webcams filming public spaces”, Explain The New York Times.
David Welly Sombra Rodrigues learned of the existence of the montage from a friend, who had read an article by the American agency Bloomberg on the project. “I was really shocked”, he admits to New York Times. “I didn’t know I was being filmed.” Thus, Dries Depoorter succeeded in provoking the astonishment he sought to create, to show both the artificial nature of the photos published on social networks and the dangers of the automation of surveillance. “If a person can do that, what can a government do?” he asks.
Thanks to geolocation data
Based in Ghent, in East Flanders, Dries Depoorter had already used public cameras to spot pedestrians crossing red lights. He then had collected the photos of these packages in an exhibition, where they were offered at the price of the fine to which passers-by exposed themselves. Last year, the artist had programmed an artificial intelligence to track down the elected members of the Flemish Parliament glued to their laptops in the hemicycle.
a month ago, retrace Tea New York Times, Dries Depoorter was watching EarthCam live in Times Square, New York City, when he caught a woman taking selfies. Thinking he was dealing with an influencer, he tried to find her on social networks, without achieving his ends. But it made him want to repeat the operation. He only had to consult the EarthCam images taken in New York, Chicago or Dublin, and download the photos of Internet users who had geolocated to the same places. If that wasn’t enough, he used a “open source facial recognition software”, adds The New York Times.
Dries Depoorter has not contacted the people who appear in The Follower project. “He refused to give their identity to the New York Timeswith the exception of Mr. Rodrigues, on the condition that the New York Times do not write anything about the Brazilian professor without his explicit permission”, reveals the American daily, which obtained the authorization of the person concerned.
His face appeared, along with those of other Instagram followers, in a video compiling Dries Depoorter’s edits. But at the request of EarthCam, which claims the rights to these images, YouTube took it down. For its part, the New Jersey-based company continues to broadcast real-time images filmed in public places, and in particular in front of the Temple Bar.