Friday, 30 June

Next Society

Fri 30 June | 14:45 - 15:15



Social Cooling – How Big Data is Increasing Pressure to Conform

What does it mean to be free in a world where surveillance is the dominant business model? More and more people are starting to realize that databrokers (a 200 billion dollar industry) are turning our data-trail into thousands of scores. This ‘digital reputation’ is starting to strongly effect our lives, influencing our chances to get a job, a cheap loan or even a nice date. As awareness spreads people are changing their behavior; studies show an increase in self-censorship and a growing culture of risk-aversion. For example, we see students not partying as hard. We see people not clicking on links because they think “someone” might record that visit, and it could ‘look bad’. We see doctors hesitating to operate on difficult diseases because a death will affect their score. In 2020 all Chinese citizens will receive a ‘social credit score’ that basically reflects how well behaved they are.

As oil lead to Global Warming, data leads to Social Cooling. Comparing these two problems is not just intended as a warning. It offers hope, a blueprint for how to deal with this issue, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human in our data-driven world.


Tijmen Schep is a technology critic and privacy designer who helps people understand and deal with data issues. He coined the term “Social Cooling” and “click fear”, and often speaks publicly about that ways in which our information society has unforeseen chilling effects on free speech and our willingness to take risks. An example is his presentation at TEDx 2006 in Utrecht.

He wrote the book “Design my Privacy” which is used by design academies across the Netherlands. He also co-founded SETUP, a Dutch non-profit that uses humor to explain data-issues to a wider audience. In the DIY NSA project they scraped together a database of all Dutch people from public online sources, promoting it as a ‘National Birthday Calendar’. Another example is “taste your status”, a coffee machine that offers you good or bad coffee depending on your area code. These projects have reached a wide audience, and have been presented at SXSW and CNN.