So what is a digital footprint?
It’s an obvious fact that we live in a digital era – an era of information. More and more of what we do daily gets recorded online – this way or another – with or without our consent. That’s what we call a “digital footprint”. It’s all those pieces of information; your private data and whatever breadcrumbs you leave behind you online.
How do we leave it?
Starting from the most obvious:
– writing emails, transferring money or googling things. But also there’s:
– our credit cards – and paying in various stores,
– our children’s pictures from kindergarten,
– or the ones from the parties that our friends/or us chose to post on social media,
– or the ones reminiscent of a recent romance – that you only sent to this one person.
And many, many more. We don’t notice most of that.
Something not everyone knows but has been proven time and time again – we’re not even safe using our own computers. Malware is dangerous for our data, but a special shout-out goes to our built-in laptop/tablet/smartphone cameras. They can easily be hacked, leaving us vulnerable. (A little tip – always use a sticker or tape of some sort to cover your camera – just sayin’ 😉
Everything we do leaves a footprint. In other words, stays on the world wide web (cringe much?;) – as data and as such, can be collected, sold, and used. Of course, you can read a lot about privacy issues; the question is – is it still possible to stay private in the digital era? Well – that was a rather rhetorical question. The real one is – what are the dangers of this lack of privacy?
When you live in a democratic country, it may mean the marketers will target you more effectively and using more precise methods. But is it only this?
I thought about the 2016 US election and the rumor about the algorithms being tools for convincing people on verious platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Just think about it – when a company buys data you produce using FB, they KNOW what party you favor. They may also know you haven’t yet decided or that you’re not sure. So why wouldn’t someone who buys this data target you with information designed to make you vote for the specific person or party? Or maybe to change your mind if your political views are not firmly set? Or if you’re old enough to vote but young enough to be easily manipulated? Just a thought – not a conspiracy theory – rather a reality that can go dangerously wrong.
How dangerous is our lack of privacy?
Another thing to keep in mind is there are countries where personal data – such as data collected from social media, or your browser’s history may get you in serious trouble. And I mean the most serious trouble.
– there are countries you cannot safely have other than heteronormative orientation – you can go to prison or even receive a death sentence,
– there are countries where you cannot safely date someone before marriage, or
– where it is not possible to admit to being an atheist or not be of a specific religion.
I recently watched a lecture by Michal Kosinski. He is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University. He and his team have developed an algorithm that’s based on thousands and thousands of profiles of users. It can make you face the fact – our privacy is long gone, and there’s not much we can do about it. But you can still choose some of the information that you decide to share with the world.
Curious enough to check out your Facebook (or Twitter) activity?
When you log in with your Facebook/Twitter account, you’ll get a detailed report on your psychology in a matter of seconds. The algorithm used in this program takes your whole activity – things you liked and things you posted – and cross-checks it with some personality tests.
You’ll get a pretty neat summary of how the algorithm sees you.
Starting with your age (yes, FB usually has your real age, but this is to predict how you behave – based on the data). Then you have gender, personality predictions, Jungian classification, sexual orientation, and political views. Yes. All that from an app created to tell the world whether the girl is nice or not...
Take a look for yourself. Use the Magic Sauce, and you’ll go straight to the testing site – “Apply Magic Sauce”