The permanence of this came home to me when i was asked by my smart phone to synch contacts with my computer. Suddenly i had thousands and thousands of contacts....every single staff member at my place of work was now on my phone (thousands in a University), but also it managed to do what I could not 9had i wanted to). It managed to data mine every single email address i had connected with for at least the last 8 years, despite my workplace having converted from one platform to another.
Personally i found this unsettling, not least because it meant i now had to scroll through thousands of contacts to find the ones i want on my person, in my pocket, in my smart phone. My choices: delete manually or delete by returning the phone to its preset factory settings (sans all photos and misic). So...I'm up to the letter K...
But its also important because of what else it brings to the fore.
Theres the mining of metadata- apparently its just who contacts who and when...but here it was used to trace the telephone contacts of a journalist who the NZ governement were not happy with in his reporting of how NZ soldiers were treating prisoners.
Here's a programme that maps the connections made of email contacts https://immersion.media.mit.edu/
And here's a news item pointing to how its more than metadata that is subject to mining
And here's one for twitter http://mentionmapp.com/beta/classic/index.php#user-mentionmapp
For facebook there's the seeming beauty of knowing who, of those I know, talk together, that can be made visually apparent at http://www.facebook.com/MyFnetwork/
And at facebook https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch
Here i found i could find:
Photos of myself and others i care about, out of context and looking pretty suspect... even when the photo was de-tagged.... not difficult if one does a friends of friends photo search.
A search of my workplace and everyone who likes the site "I fucking love science". Seems not too embarrassing, but still...
Then maybe a search of one's workplace, and all the people who are single, of a certain age, and gender, and who like a certain dating site?
All very possible with a very creepy facebook graph search....i know more now than i am pretty sure some of my colleagues would ever want me to know- note this gave me info on people i had never been friended with on fb.
Time to talk to friends about not posting what you dont want up tagged or not! And a reminder to check privacy setting. And to reconsider what you put into what actually ends up more public than you might have ever been aware of!
Here's some more on this http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/
There's also a live stream of everything anyone in the world is searching for by googling it http://live.lmgtfy.com/
And an example of how such surveillance can be used for good in public health http://www.google.org/flutrends/
and here http://www.google.org/flutrends/about/how.html
Note the search precedes the data that would have been gathered by visits to GPs...
And in searches that happen where the individual might then become traceable such as where cookies keep track on the sites one visits and where this information might then be onsold, not only to provide you with targetted advertising but perhaps also to provide other parties with targeted information. Entering into a world where it's not just my use of a company owned computer that might for my employer want to keep record of where i digitally go, but also where such information might attract a higher bidder. What health insurer would want to insure someone who searches depression through to cancer? The inherent risk is identified here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10895700 where 13 out of 20 websites contained third-party elements that tracked user data. Original publication at JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 8, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7795 or available here for those without freedom of access....http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710119
Given the current furore over the GCSB bill, a bill that attempts to retrospectively make right that the GCSB had been spying on New Zealanders on behalf of other agencies despite legislation that explicitly stated it was not allowed to.... so despite the possibilities for good or for pretty, I am feeling the panoptican Foucault talked of very heavily today.
And conscious also of Latour's admonishment to beware of how one's imagination leaves digital traces.
The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more...
I'm feeling a little lost in a Peter Pan moment of wanting to stay attached to my shadow, to know where it goes...to know what further steps it takes when I'm not with it...
So what's the answer?
Dont leave traces? Or if you leave traces, leave them by the thousands... leader of the opposition on the rally against the GCSB bill suggests CC'ing the PM into every email, now there's an idea...
And a postnote: this post has had so many more reads than others of late, wondering how many of them are by spying agencies ...