We cannot discuss digital footprints and privacy with children and family members too much or too often. The point is not to scare anyone — the virtual trails that we leave are becoming almost routine — but rather to help family members consider how much data we share, intentionally or otherwise, and whether at times we should consider making at least a few changes in our online behavior.
On September 30, 2013, NPR’s All Things Considered program aired the first of a series of reports on digital footprints, and it’s worth taking the time to listen or read and to learn more about just how much data is collected on each of us. I expect the other reports will be just as compelling. NPR is collaborating on the series with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIROnline.org).
Reporter Daniel Zwerdling describes the obvious digital trails we leave behind with our computers, mobile phones, GPS-guided car trips, and credit card purchases, and also our less-than-obvious footprints from prescription drug purchases, traffic camera sitings, and wifi tracking and facial recognition cameras that track us in shopping malls. That we make digital footprints is not surprising, however, the amount of data that is collected about us and used to form profiles is extensive and worrisome. Privacy — our privacy — has gone out the window.
The information at the Center for Investigative Reporting is similar, but with a range of different details.
Most Interesting Quote in the NPR Report
Many people don’t know their medical records are available to investigators and private attorneys: While many Americans are under the impression that their medical records are protected by privacy laws, investigators and private attorneys enjoy special access there, too.
Watch this video, posted at both the NPR.or and CIRonine.org sites.
You may also want to read a blog post, Privacy: I’ve Got Nothing to Hide, So I’m Not Worried, that I published on MediaTechParenting in August 2013.