Sunday, April 25, 2010


ERASING DAVID. One thumb up, one thumb sideways. Filmmaker David Bond wants to get an idea how much of his life exists in electronic records and traces stored in databases belonging to private and government agencies, and also wishes to discover if he can remove and/or hide those traces while living something like a normal life. This was a little more fun than I expected and a little less immersive/deep. A great eye-opener, but a little thin on real education on the subject of one's electronic footprint.

In order to do this, Bond attempts to disappear for 30 days and hires a top UK detective agency to try to find him before those 30 days are up. In order to learn how to go about this, Bond interviews security and civil rights experts, contacts government and commercial agencies for copies of their records on him and his family, and meets with a small sample of victims of identity theft and government-sponsored surveillance. The film moves forward and backward in time, forward while following his tracks and the PIs' investigative process for 30 days, and backward as he educates himself on the potential dangers and avenues of abuse and crime related to modern day life stored on video and in data.

Bond's personality (and unfortunately for him, his crumbling security and growing paranoiad behavior) provides the more fun than I expected. The film does a decent job punching up the cloak and dagger thrill of the chase. It's sort of just a coat of paint, but it's a good coat of paint.

The weakness of immersion and follow-thru shows in the degree of care/carelessness he shows when hiding his tracks and providing a life on the lam that a typical modern day citizen would actually want to live. I thought the idea would be for him to leave his usual day-to-day, and then set up a completely new one somewhere until the PIs find him, or not, y'know? But he doesn't do that. In fact, he's a bit schizo about how to treat his 30 days. He starts with the imaginary premise that he's committed a crime, and so, is on the run from the authorities. But, he also claims that he wants to live a semblance of a normal life, HIS normal life, with contact with his family, just as off the grid as possible, which, when you use your credit card to buy passenger tickets and your smart phone to make calls and access the internet, isn't very.

Still, the survey of security and civil liberties experts and victims of identity-related crime and manipulation are an eye-opening introduction to the vulnerability of anyone and everyone who's alive in a technology-loving society today. Everyone leaves traces on surveillance cameras, in health records and hospital visits, bank and credit card transactions. A weakness in follow-thru is also evident on this side of the film. It introduces us to these issues and potential abuses, but really only skims the surface of it. One interview with a woman who was denied a job because a criminal database search mistook her for a different woman with a similar name and the same birthdate who had a record. One interview with a man whose stolen credit card was used to purchase a membership at a porn site that featured under-age subjects. He was cleared of wrongdoing, but the charge remains somewhere on his electronic record. Stories like these give us the corner pieces of the puzzle, but I would have appreciated more of all of it, more of the big picture.

Some sorta SPOILERy observations...

One interesting aspect of the cloak-and-dagger thread of the film is how much and how far the detectives get using purely analog, non-electonic, non-technological techniques. No one in the film explicitly makes a point of this, but it was a pretty significant part of the PIs process, going thru mail, impresonating their quarry on the phone, sorting thru his garbage for paper trails. Old school stuff that provide clues or hard info on where to begin picking up the new school trails. Addresses of family, receipts for tickets, contact info and appointments at hospitals...

I also would have liked some deeper investigation into how to reduce one's data footprint or strategically control it.

Before he sets out on his 30 day adventure, Bond enlists the aid of a security expert to show him how he's vulnerable. This sequence is very entertaining and enlightening and even tho it was way too short, this was probably the most effectively educational piece of the film. The expert calls him on his cell and informs Bond of his exact location. He hacks into the frequency of his baby monitor and uses it to eavesdrop and even communicate with him from an apartment across the street.

Gotta crash. Gonna post some pics now and will TRY to come back around after the fest to ramble on the other two films from today.

Keep on keepin on~

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