Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Digital Trail...Or How You are Are Being Tracked Day In and Day Out

Many people go about their daily business in a state of auto-pilot. Many of the things we do are routine and we do basically the same thing every day with little thought to how our every action is being recorded, digitized, analyzed and stored for future use. Although the time is still a bit off until we will all be neatly implanted with an RFID chip at birth, consider how the following tasks leave a digital trail that can easily be resurrected should the need arise:

  • You get up and deactivate your security system to let the dog out.
  • You log onto the internet.
  • You check your email.
  • You email something or receive an email.
  • You IM someone or receive and IM.
  • You pay a bill online.
  • You order from an online store.
  • You buy or sell something on EBay.
  • You send or receive photos or files online.
  • You check your financial accounts online.
  • You pass through a toll booth on your way to work.
  • You stop by Starbucks and pick up breakfast using your debit card.
  • You pass by one of the many intersections that record the license plates of red light runners.
  • You enter any number of buildings with video security (gas station, convenience store, WalMart, et al.).
  • You drive down the freeway or other road with webcam surveillance.
  • You go into your office building and swipe your ID/have your retina scanned/have your finger print scanned.
  • You log onto your server at the office.
  • You use your cellphone.
  • You eat at the company cafeteria or a local restaurant paying with anything but cash.
  • You fill out and submit a form (for anything: a loan, a passport, a medical claim, etc).
  • You drive a car that has a "black box".
  • You enter or leave the country.
  • You fly, cruise, take a train or an inter-state bus.
  • You use any type of card associated with your personal information (student ID, grocery store membership card, library card, city bus pass, etc.).
  • You write up a manifesto or any other document on your computer.
  • You have any medical or dental procedure done.
  • You enter any place (military base, courthouse, embassy) or attend an event (wedding, funeral) that records your presence.
  • You buy a firearm.
  • You rent a movie.
  • You use any service (ie: water, electricity, garbage, etc) with which your information is associated.
  • You make a call from your home phone.
  • You call 911.
  • You order a pizza or Chinese food to be delivered to your home.
  • You reactivate your security system before going to bed.

That's just a basic list of all of the ways you are tracked and your actions are recorded each day. Of course there are ways to minimize your "digital footprint" and there are some locations that are less prone to these surveillance methods than others.

Your homework: write down every way that your daily actions are being documented or leaving a digital trail for the next couple of days. After this task is completed, go through your list and brainstorm ways to minimize or eliminate this trail.

1 comment:

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