This Surveillance Artist Knows How You Got That Perfect Instagram Photo –


EarthCam declined to answer questions about its cameras and the risks they might pose to the privacy of the individuals who are filmed by them in an age of more powerful biometric-tracking technologies. The company’s marketing director, Simon Kerr, said only that Mr. Depoorter had “used EarthCam imagery and video without authorization and such usage is in violation of our copyright.”

Mr. Depoorter said his project is not about the specific companies that enabled it. “It’s not only EarthCam,” he said. “There are many unprotected cameras all over the world.”

While recording the feeds from EarthCam, Mr. Depoorter simultaneously downloaded public photos from Instagram that users were tagging to those locations.

Instagram discourages collecting photos en masse from its platform. “Collecting information in an automated way” is a violation of the company’s terms of use and can get a user banned.

“We’ve reached out to the artist to learn more about this piece and understand his process,” said Thomas Richards, a spokesman for Meta, the company that owns Instagram. “Privacy is a top priority for us, as is protecting people’s information when they share content on our platforms.”

After the data collection from EarthCam and Instagram came the difficult part: finding the right people to needle in the digital haystack.

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