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Artist's book showcases private information from old phones

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Racy pictures and shocking texts possibly taken from dumped phones in the Houston area are now out there for the world to see. Is it art, or an invasion of privacy?

The phones were apparently sold by an eBay member out of Sugar Land. The artist who bought them planned to make a sculpture. Instead he found a book, much more revealing.

When you open the book you see actual size pictures of the cell phones. On the opposite page is what was discovered on them. We've blocked out all the personal information for TV, but there is a racy text from someone who "can't wait to see you tonight." The person who wrote the text then went on to say what part of the recipient they really wanted to see.

Artist Kyle Williams explained, "I was mesmerized. I was going through every one, ripping out the battery putting it in another one, seeing what was on the next."

Williams bought the phones last month from an eBay seller based in Sugar Land. He bought 44 of them for $89 and about half had data still on them.

"It kind of just documents the life of a Razr cell phone user from 2005-2011," Williams claimed.

Some texts were innocuous, like directions to a restaurant, or a picture of a pet. There were also nude pictures, a jar of what appears to be marijuana and a text lamenting: "My life's over. I just crashed my roommate's car and I got someone pregnant. I might as well kill myself."

Williams sees this not as an invasion of privacy, but he says it's art.

"There's nothing censored. No phone numbers are blocked out, it's kind of all there just as a statement to what this is," he said.

Williams says it's a vignette, a screen capture in time, when the Razr was the rage. It's a commentary on how quickly technology changes and so, too, does life and our expectations of privacy.

Williams says he is a bit concerned that any one of those folks whose phones he profiled might now be upset and want to seek some sort of retribution.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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