Blog Post

Privacy, Security, and Your "Data Shadow"

shadows of six people on ground in sun

Whether you call it our "data shadow," "data selfie," "data shed" or something else entirely, most, if not all, of us have left traces of our life, our bodies, and our activities online. At the same time, data breaches, third party data brokers, and predatory advertisers have all been in the news in the last year (along with a lot of other crap). Sometimes the news of data’s leakiness is enough to make a person throw up their hands in despair, but if I may encourage you – don't. It is absolutely the case that connected data can never be perfectly secure, but that doesn’t mean you need to make your own data easy to get. The first step is to understand who is working hard to get their hands on your data and what they are doing with it. Then you can make more informed decisions that match your own sense of value, convenience, and security.

I do a fair amount of work in this area as part of the Human Security Collaboratory, but this particular post owes a great deal to a call that Shannon Mattern (@shannonmattern) put out recently on Twitter and to the excellent group of folks who responded. I’ve not used all of these tools listed, so you will want to explore them for yourself. I’ve read most of the articles and guides and they all are useful.

If you have other resources/tools that might belong on this list - let me know in comments or via twitter (@profwernimont) and I'll get them added!

Among my favorite security/privacy projects and collections of resources are:

Equality Labs,

FemTechNet’s Center for Solutions to Online Violence,

and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Tactical Tech Collective is just killing it these days with engaged/activated research on privacy, including their partnership with Mozilla. Check them out and consider their data detox!

New to me but looks great is the Chupadados project by Latin America-based Coding Rights

Another shop that I’m keen on is the Office of Creative Research.

Individual tools and articles:

Article: Lessons from a Cybersecurity Mom (hint: lie)

First in an “investigative trilogy”: Facebook Algorithmic Factory

Tool: Breaking the Black Box of what Facebook Knows About You

Tool: Privacy Badger (blocking extension)

Tool: Ghostery (blocking extension – I use and love)

Tool: Panopticlick (a tool to test how your blocker is doing)

Documentary Series: Do Not Track

Podcast “The Rainbow of Inevitability More Adventures in Surveillance

Tool: Tracker Tracker

Tool: Data Selfie (FB specific)

Tool: Trace My Shadow

Tool: WASP Inspector for Chrome (Developer level insight into tracking)

Twitter Account: Terms of Service, Didn't Read (about the failings of ToS agreements that no one can understand)

Twitter Account: Apply Magic Sauce (will tell you more than you want to know about “psychometric demographics”)

Demo project: How PayPal Shares Your Data by Rebecca Ricks

Demo project: The Living Net by Jessica Rajko and Jacqueline Wernimont

Article: Taxonomy of Humans According to Twitter

Article: Before You Hit Submit, This Company Has Already Logged Your Data

Interview: The Hidden Ways You’re Being Tracked

Article: The House That Spied on Me

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