Privacy

Search History

In the movie, we are introduced to KnowsMore, the embodiment of a search engine who aggressively attempts to complete sentences as someone is talking (a characterisation of autocomplete and prediction features). Commentary on how search history can threaten privacy is made through this character. As an adult makes a search for ballet tights KnowsMore comments “Little Madeline's trying ballet now, is she? I hope this lasts longer than the soccer phase.” The ability to know in depth details of a person’s life is a well known problem.

KnowsMore looking through his book of user information
KnowsMore cheerfully helps a man stalk his ex-girlfriend.

Social Media Stalking

Later in the movie, KnowsMore is used to provide commentary about internet privacy and stalking. He responds to one user with “I found a hundred and thirty results for ‘Where does my high school girlfriend live now?’ You’re welcome.” A case study states that “According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 3.4 million persons identified themselves as victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006.” [1] This commentary is meant to bring light to another aspect of the ways the internet causes these dangers.

Google Autocomplete Volatility

When Ralph and Vanellope try to learn more about the internet world they are exploring, they consult KnowsMore for advice. As the pair try to query KnowsMore, they’re continually interrupted by KnowsMore’s suggestion of how the question could end. When using the Google search engine, this also happens (in a less aggressive way). Google can do this because it has learned common questions from countless queries. Sometimes, these suggestions can appear based on user data [4]. If a large number of users search for something, Google may pick up on that for autocompletions. This changes the user experience, especially if the popular search is offensive or inflammatory. Al-Abbas finds in an analysis, “The suggestions offered by [autocomplete] act in a forceful way [such] that they intervene before users have completed typing. This may draw people's attention to search for a specific suggestion that was not planned for and hence, establish certain stereotypes about a particular group.” [3] in regards to a study done around autocomplete and gender discrimination. The movie highlights how, although sometimes useful, these functions can be incredibly aggressive at times.

KnowsMore aggressively interrupts with suggestions on how a query could end.
Ralph watches Vanellope having a conversation with Shank that she doesn't want him to hear.

Overhearing Private Conversations

As Ralph gets told that the team has gotten enough money for the Sugar Rush wheel, He attempts to call Vanellope. As the phone is vibrating, it slips off the dashboard of Shank’s car and pops open. Without user input, the phone accepts the call, however Ralph is muted, preventing Vanellope from knowing that he's listening. This infringement of privacy leads to the main plot problem of the movie. Also, it serves to commentate on how frequently technology overhears even private conversations. With an increase of programs offering opt-in integrations, such as Discord offering options including Spotify, Youtube, and Twitch amongst other integrations [2], it’s becoming easier to accidentally share information that you would otherwise assume to be private. The movie highlights this concern.

Sources

[1] Dowdell, Elizabeth Burgess, and Patricia K. Bradley. "Risky internet behaviors: A case study of online and offline stalking." (The Journal of school nursing, 2010) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1059840510380209 Accessed April 30, 2021.

[2] Morris, Tee. Discord for Dummies. (John Wiley & Sons, 2020) https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=eXvpDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=discord+app+sharing+options&ots=yJr-yhQGh4&sig=vbZONl9WQlYmiTvdctBHirn7UhQ#v=onepage&q=discord%20app%20sharing%20options&f=false Accessed April 30, 2021.

[3] Al-Abbas, Linda S., Ahmad S. Haider, and Riyad F. Hussein. "Google Autocomplete Search Algorithms and the Arabs' Perspectives on Gender: A Case Study of Google Egypt." (GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies, 2020) https://ejournal.ukm.my/gema/article/view/40148/11427b Accessed April 30, 2021.

[4] Douglas Leith, Web Browser Privacy: What do Browsers say When they Phone Home?, (IEEE, 2021), https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9374407 Accessed April 30, 2021.