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My privacy every day

Revised: January 2020

Nothing to hide? It's just as well… from the time we get up in the morning until we climb into bed at night, we leave a trail of data behind us for others to collect, merge, analyze, massage and even sell, often without our knowledge or consent.

Trail of data we leave behind every day
Time Data
7:30 Text a friend – even if you delete the text, it still leaves a digital “print” (and also remains on your friend’s device if they don’t delete it) and could still be accessible and tracked down.
8:15 Download an app to your mobile device – online technologies take note of information like your email address and what kind of apps you like. Apps can collect all sorts of information about you, including your location and contacts in your address book.
8:42 Late for soccer game – call coach to let team know. Cell phone calls can easily be intercepted; mobile phone technology signals your whereabouts to satellites to deliver calls.
9:11 Play a shift in game – people could be recording videos and taking pictures of your game with their mobile phones. They could post these on social media and tag you.
10:37 Send a text to mom at work – this can be read by mom’s employer since they have issued it to her for work purposes. Simple deletion does not erase it from the phone or the company’s network.
10:40 Drive car to coffee shop – your geo-location device plots your route and records your vehicle location at all times.
10:43 “Check in” in at coffee shop – you do this on social media, so all your friends know where you are. Anyone with access to your profile can see where you are (and where you aren’t) and, later, you receive personalized marketing recommendations that are based on that particular location.
10:47 Use bank machine at coffee shop – system records details of transaction, cameras overhead or in machine record your behaviour.
10:55 Log onto Internet from your laptop at coffee shop – you use free Wi-Fi, making it possible for others to see your purchases, messages and other activity and possibly your photos and files. The coffee shop could also be monitoring your traffic.
11:00 Post pictures from the party last night on social media – pictures and comments you post can be accessed long into the future, possibly by future college and job interviewers. If the geo-tagging features are enabled on your device, your photo will be tagged with your location. Anyone who can see your photo – and anyone they share the photo with – will know your location. If they know that location is your house, they will know where you live.
11:30 Return some jeans you bought yesterday – for the return you are required to give your driver’s license for the clerk to scan and to fill out a form that asks for your phone number and home address. You stop to look at a sweater on your way out. Since you’ve downloaded the store’s app, it can use the Bluetooth capability on your phone to track which aisle you’re in.
11:53 Buy a birthday gift for a friend – credit card records details of purchase, retailer’s loyalty card profiles purchase for points and directed discounts; banks may use spending patterns to help assemble complete customer profile.
1:00 Buy a fast-food meal – security cameras record your arrival, your debit card purchase is recorded, loyalty card tracks selections for marketing and targeted discounts.
2:12 Realize you forgot your phone at fast-food place – if your device isn’t password-protected, anybody could pick it up and gain access to any and all personal information on it. If they choose to text or email from it, they could even pretend to be you.
2:32 Return to fast-food place – security cameras record your return.
4:30 Check for missed phone calls – your phone has recorded callers’ phone numbers and displays your number when you call others, unless you enter the code to block the display.
5:13 Accept someone you don’t know that well as a “friend” online – if you haven’t set up different privacy settings for different lists of friends, you may be giving that person access to a treasure trove of your personal information.
7:30 Play a videogame online – gaming companies collect many types of personal information: everything from names, addresses and credit card information for billing purposes, to email addresses and IP addresses, down to feedback rankings from others, digital images and personalized profiles.
9:05 Complete an online survey so you can get a coupon for 20% off – company records personal details and may sell the information to third parties, including data brokers who then sell it to advertising companies.

Increasingly, living a modern life seems to mean there is nowhere to hide. In our search for security and convenience, are we hitching ourselves to an electronic leash?

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