FFD8FFDB

An image of an unknown location captured by the bot in October 2016

An image of an unknown location captured by the bot in October 2016

Created by Minneapolis-based web developer Derek Arnold, @FFD8FFDB harvests snapshots from internet-connected cameras whose owners haven’t secured them with a password, feeds them through a visual filter, then automatically posts them to Twitter. There are thousands of unsecured webcams in the world, but for privacy reasons Arnold only pulls stills from those connected to business IPs, and crops out identifying data in the margins.

The fragments of everyday life the bot captures—glimpses of unremarkable parking lots, offices, shops, and highways—are perfectly ordinary. But the inscrutable nature of the Twitter feed itself, with its odd, garbled captions, and the fact that most of the locations featured are curiously devoid of life, gives each image an eerie, dreamlike quality.

"I enjoy that strangers find it unsettling, amusing, or even uninteresting," Arnold writes on Medium. "Like other Twitter bots, its unending tenacity is part of its charm. Many of these cameras go dark at night, most not having enough illumination to provide images. But it doesn’t care and keeps stealing shots anyway. With generative art, there's a point where what you intend for the project to be gives way to what the art wants to be."

— Andy Kelly