London artist agrees to cover faces in images captured from unsecured Hong Kong webcams

Artist will also stop selling merchandise that featured uncensored images featured in art gallery after receiving warning from privacy chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 7:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 10:53pm

The artist behind a controversial exhibition in London, featuring images captured from unsecured webcams, has agreed to cover the faces of people in the images after the exhibition was reported by the media and caused public uproar.

Earlier this week, Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom and the Post revealed that uncensored images were being used by artist Nye Thompson, for her art exhibition called, The images consisted of unsuspecting people in various states of work, play or rest, with their faces clearly visible in the images. Many of the images featured Hongkongers.

Prying webcams used by artist to capture unsuspecting Hongkongers in controversial UK exhibition

The images were found by bots, which scanned for unsecured webcams around the world, gathered shots of unsuspecting users and placed them onto search engines. The exhibition also includes images from Russia and the US. The exhibition was hosted by the London Metropolitan University.

When the images came to the attention of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Stephen Wong Kai-yi, he called for the ­images featuring Hongkongers to be pulled from the exhibition, citing violations of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

As I brought these out to the public, I quickly re-evaluated and thought, ‘no actually, I can’t do that’
Nye Thompson, artist

After the revelation and enquires by the media, Thompson agreed to blur the faces of people in the images, and stop selling merchandise, such as limited-edition prints, featuring uncensored pictures.

“As I was initially thinking about it, these were found images and I wasn’t looking to make money off it,” Thompson told Channel 4.

“As I brought these out to the public, I quickly re-evaluated and thought, ‘no actually, I can’t do that’.”

Thompson maintains her intention was to raise public awareness through art of “just how vulnerable our online privacy is”.

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In a written statement, Wong said he was “pleased” that Thompson agreed to obscure the faces of people in the images displayed in the gallery, and stop selling prints.

He also advised internet users to stay vigilant in protection of their personal data.

Cybersecurity experts advised users of webcams to set strong passwords for their devices, and put a piece of tape over the camera lenses when it is not in use.