President's Report Masthead
December 31, 2015

Exposed: Artist explores tension between privacy and security

We go to great lengths to protect our privacy: from HIPAA laws to screen names to digital security. We make choices about who knows us and how much they know. But try to board a plane or enter a government building and the tables are turned. Suddenly you might be the person from whom the rest of us need protection.

After 9/11, Blazo Kovacevic, assistant professor of art and design at Binghamton University, was being pulled aside for extra screening at airports with more than just random frequency. It was easy to see why. He was a frequent traveler between the United States and his native Montenegro, encumbered by a foreign passport and the Balkans’ reputation as a war zone.

He was suspect.

But being pulled out of line gave him a rare opportunity to see what typical passengers don’t see: the secret lives of fellow travelers, as revealed by the items they carry in their bags and purses.
Kovacevic realized that the power of the X-ray to sort people into categories — safe vs. suspicious — exposes travelers to more than the probing eyes of strangers. It can arouse feelings of guilt.

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