Imagine a future where your Facebook profile was more important than your passport. German artist and communications designer Tobias Leingruber attempted to give people a glimpse into that future with his latest project. “In my artistic statement, I’m drawing a possible future where Facebook has reached even more power than any government when it comes to controlling people’s lives,” Leingruber told Metro World News by email. To create his vision, Leingruber printed Facebook Identification Cards, which showed your real name, username, gender, location, the date you joined Facebook and a QR code that would directly link to your profile. He intended to hand them out at the Supermarkt Berlin on March 2 and the Unlike Us Coverfence in Amsterdam in March 16 to anyone who would want a card.
“On the web, we use Facebook connect all the time, and no one seems to notice what that actually means. I claim that most people still think the Internet is not “real life,” and therefore underestimate its actual influence to “real life” society,” Leingruber said.
The artist got the idea for the identification cards when he was crossing the border, and an officer jokingly asked him “So, what’s your Facebook name?” At the time, he thought the comment was funny – and a bit creepy – but then realized the thought-provoking power that physical social network identification cards could have in making people realize the importance of online identity.
Another German artist, Mortiz Tolzdorff, followed Leingruber’s idea and created Google+ ID cards’-, and added a link to where Google+ users could create their own card. On his Google+ profile, he said his project was to also bring attention to a possible social network identity-based future.
This isn’t the first time Leingruber has tried to tackle the Facebook giant. One of his previous art projects was called “FB Resistance.” The online community urged users to find ways to hack Facebook and go against their programming. This included simple things like trying to figure out how to change the white background of a profile page to how to delete the messages in one’s inbox, which can only be archived.
Leingruber isn’t anti-social network: He just believes that people should have control and be conscious about what they are sharing online.
“What I dislike is that more and more social-sharing is an opt-out,” he explained. “A friend of mine was recently listening to songs on Facebook, until I told her that all of her 600 ‘friends; can actually follow her playlist in real-time. She had absolutely no idea that this was happening. (It) could have been embarrassing! She immediately turned it off.”
It’s not the little things like song choice that Leingruber is worried about, but it’s the more pressing concern that people will one day no longer have the freedom of choice to decide what they want to share about themselves online.
Facebook did not respond to Metro World News’ request for comment. However, the website for Leingruber’s project has been replaced with this message: “The content on this webpage has been removed as requested from Facebook Inc. Thanks everyone for your overwhelming positive feedback and for engaging in valuable discussions. You have made this project valuable. Et voila – A piece of (social media) art.”
Leingruber isn’t angry about the project being shut down. While he hasn’t handed out any cards, he was more excited about the conversation that was spurred by the concept of Facebook identification cards. “To me it’s already finished,” he said.
“My thoughts reached hundreds of thousands of people, and that has made its value,” he added.