A couple of nights ago More4 showed “Erasing David” as part of its ever-insightful True Stories strand (for those of you who don’t know, True Stories are feature-length documentaries focusing on issues and stories that never make it on to the news).
The idea was that David Bond, the film-maker, would make himself disappear for a month while private investigators did everything they could to find him and catch him before the month was up.
Now, it may seem as if that would be quite easy: just go to another country, mooch around for a bit and then return triumphant. Er, no. The private investigators were able to find out everything about David’s family and the man himself, enabling them to track and pre-empt his every move. They knew he was in Brussels, they knew he went to Berlin. They also knew he was in Paris, and so waited patiently for him to arrive at St. Pancras station, although he never materialised (because he took the ferry).
The action was intercut with scenes from the months leading up to David’s disappearance, including a visit to a psychologist, an insight into CCTV, a training session with the man who wrote “How To Disappear” and David’s piles of information that he’d gathered from private companies and the government. All about him. And his two year old daughter. The piles were shockingly large – Amazon knew that he was feeling angry on a particular day in 2006. Scary. These parts, along with the efforts of the private investigators, were the most illuminating parts of the film.
What was frustrating was the complete incompetence of David – it was like he actually wanted to be found. When he went to Brussels he let a blogger film him and paste the results on the internet for all to see, he visited his father’s house, he planned to go to his mother’s house and used the internet and his Blackberry on numerous occassions. In my opinion the only thing he did right was to go to Pembrokeshire and hide in a wood hut for a couple of days. He eventually went to a London hospital to keep an ante-natal appointment with his pregnant, and very ill, wife. This is where he was eventually caught after eighteen days – the NHS had given out details of their appointment to the investigators simply because they knew his name and his wife’s date of birth. I was surprised it took them that long considering some of David’s silly moves.
Still, I guess the actual chase bit wasn’t the real point of the documentary – the real purpose was obviously to get us to think more about how we use our data and who’s watching it. It was sort of pessimistic but for me it wasn’t anything I didn’t know anyway. Perhaps David was naive to think that there wasn’t a whole boatload of data on him out there, but if you do want some insight on how our private data is used then you should check the film out.