Digital footprint - from cradle to grave.

The future of privacy imagined

The coming generations which inhabit this planet, will leave an ever growing digital footprint behind themselves. This faces our society with many ethical issues on how to deal with our online privacy.

I would like to see where we, as a society, are heading considering that the boundaries between the online self and the real self are being vaporised in a frightening tempo.

Are we headed into a safer world where total transparency is ubiquitous, and where everyone knows everything about the other individual? Or is that just wishful thinking, and we are running into a nightmarish scenario, one with zero privacy and personal freedom, which Orwell and many other doomsayers, were trying to warn us against?

The digital footprint

For the sake of simplicity, let’s take a look at what a digital footprint is. Simply put, it is the content and activity, be it in words, images, videos, conversations, audio, searches, and any other digital format, that can be traced back to a single individual.

It is the trail everyone of us leaves in the digital world and the real world.

These traces can be, usage of the mobile web, the world wide web, but they can also be the usage of any house appliances which are connected to the net (often called the Internet of things, IOT).

Maybe most crucial  to note, is that it is also the social media trail which we create by interacting with other people – describing our  presence online.

And boy, do we put out a presence. Some people might think that their accounts migth be compromised in some way, maybe even hacked.

But if you think about it, there really is no need to get under any individual’s skin. You don’t really need to hack them to learn their deepest thoughts and most intimate desires. You simply follow the trail of their actions on the internet. For our every click, we leave a trail, not only of our actions, but actually of our thoughts.

All of this, might be profiled, to get a picture, not only of our interests, but of our attention span, the way we think, how much we focus on different areas. Simply put, if there was a way to actually profile an individual down to the smallest detail, this is the the way to do it.

Although all of this is done by Big Data algorithms in a rather impersonal way, there is no telling what kind of use this data might see in the future.

Or who will use it.

Do you want to play with other’s lives?

Let’s take a look at an example of how the data we put out everyday, is already being used against the individual.

Many of us use Twitter. And a new kind of game/app called Stolen! is appearing on this social media channel. If you have seen any of the trading card games like Magic the Gathering or Soccer/Baseball trading cards, you might be familiar with the concept of collecting better cards.

Only this game Stolen! sucks up personal infromation from real individuals’ Twitter accounts so other people can play with them, trade them and swap them. So at this very moment, someone might be playing or trading you. The creators of Stolen! are rather proud of their concept and tell the media they already have 40.000 thousand users playing with others personal lives.

When asked if they don’t think it’s a bit disturbing that people are playing with others people lives without those people’s permission, the creators of Stolen! answered:  “So far we haven’t heard much complain, no.”

“For our teenagers, many of whom do not seem to grasp the concept of long-term consequences, it is an especially important topic. What you put out there on the Internet, lives there forever. Even if you delete things, they are still out there, floating around in the Internet ether. There could have been a screenshot of that regretful photo. Things you wish you had never said are forwarded on and become viral. The Internet is not an anonymous faceless place anymore.”  –  Chris Jordan

Does anybody care?

This example, although ethically extremely qeustionable, doesn’t impact the individual’s life in a meaningful way, other than using the data they have put out onto the net, which is considered public. But still, it has caused a public and media outcry which finally led to the closure of Stolen!

Still this is a very good example of how every piece of information we share, is being monetized in some way. In this case by letting other people play with your life. Another very interesting aspect of this game is a new tendency we will be seeing in games in the future.

These games will aim to shrink the borders between our real world self and our internet personality. Since the information we put out about ourselves is being already traded and played with, what will hapen in the future? Where will our privacy be?

And considering how the Millenials are constantly redefining the boundaries of what privacy should mean, the last question may be the most disturbing:

Do we even care?

To me, privacy is nothing if not the freedom to be let alone, to experiment and to make mistakes, to forget and to start anew, to act according to conscience, and to be free from the oppressive scrutiny and opinions of others.  – Unknown

Please stay tuned for the next part in the Digital footprint article where I will go into how we can raise digital footprint awareness and what kind of future we might be looking at.

(All images photographed and prepped by Piotr Ryczko)

Piotr Ryczko

Author of Story & Images
Filmmaker / Author page

As long as I can remember, a part of me has always been a keen, albeit very quiet, observer of the world around me. And another part has been a wide-eyed wonder boy who, from the get go, wanted to escape into another dimension, some yet undiscovered version of the land of Oz.

This combination of character has, on more than one occasion, shown itself to be a tad aggravating, and maybe even quite unfortunate to the outside world. And since my verbal skills are still locked away in some deep recess of my being, a talent still awaiting discovery, I had no other choice than to become a visual storyteller dressed up as filmmaker. During that process I also fell in love with words, quite many of them, actually.  Since then, there was no turning back, and I became a scribe of the written word.

Through this blog, and through my stories, be they written or told in moving images, I would like to share with you what I feel, think and dream of. And if anything on this blog connects with you, mail me, I would love to hear about it.

More words woven into stories

We are genetic Gods, but what about our children?

If you want controversy about our future and the moral choices we are making about our species, then look no further than the topic of Biogenetics. Not only has the method of in vitro caused some extreme reactions from the more religiously inclined, but on the horizon we are beginning to see the dawn of the human made in the laboratory. And it’s causing a storm. I would like to take a glance at this subject from an author’s point of view, where my main concern is, what kind of ethics will make up our future, both as parents for our children, and society as a whole.

VR – a redefining technology or heroin for the masses?

With 2017 upon us, Virtual Realiy has been generating a huge buzz for over a year now. Many are saying that this year will be the year when VR finally breaks through into the mainstream. However we choose to look upon this technology, one thing is for sure. It might be just the most disruptive technology to ever appear in our society, one with the potential to change the way we connect, interact and live our lives, forever.

Data Mining – the future of education

The education system is undergoing major changes in every country of the world, due to the datafication of the whole process of education. What are those changes? And what are the pitfalls we might be heading for? Also, will this lead to an increasing effectiveness in the education, or will this cause a more distinct stratification of the children. Those who go on to have a future. And those who don’t.

Digital Footprint – the Big Data generation – part 2 of 2

This time, let’s take a look at some of the technology behind the scenes while we surf, and point out some less than obvious ways that our character traits can be analyzed by the A.I. algorithms. Finally, I would like to come full-circle and conclude how we as parents can make a difference and teach our children how they can filter their behaviour online but still be genuine, and make lasting relationships.

Digital footprint – from cradle to grave

The coming generations who inhabit this planet, will leave an ever growing digital footprint behind themselves. This faces our society with many ethical issues on how to deal with our online privacy. Are we headed into a safer world where total transparency is ubiquitous, where everyone knows everything about the other individual? Or is that just wishful thinking? And we are headed for a nightmarish scenario, one with zero privacy and even less freedom, something which Orwell and many other doomsayers were trying to warn us against.