Privacy Basics: Passwords, Tracking, and Data Retention | Data Retention

Data Retention Agenda

Made by Stacy Martin, Senior Data Privacy Manager at Mozilla.

Find out how and why companies and governments collect and keep meta-data about Web users like you, learning about Web mechanics and privacy.

90 minutes

  • Introduction

    Who gets to keep your information online? How long can they hold on to it? What do we mean when we talk about "data retention" and what should we keep in mind about sharing our data online? This kit will help you develop an awareness of where your data goes online and how you can avoid over-sharing information about your life and activities.

    Many websites, services, and apps collect your data to learn about your habits and tailor their experiences to match your preferences online. Data is sometimes also collected for your security to make sure that you - and no one else - has access to your most sensitive information, like your bank account. That data is kept - or retained - over long periods of time so you don't have to keep re-entering it.

    That kind of data retention is not always a bad thing, but there are times when companies and even the government try to collect and retain information about you without your informed consent. When it comes to government mandates for data retention like those under the Patriot Act, data retention can become a controversial topic. Companies, and (to some extent) governments already collect and retain a ton of data about you. These entitites collect metadata (which is information like where you are when you make a call or whom you call), as well communications content and other sensitive data about your life and activities. For example, here is some of the data that the U.S. government can collect about its citizens.

    You can read more about government surveillance in the U.S. here.

    Mandates that require that data be retained expand your data footprint and give companies and governments information about your whereabouts, buying habits, and contacts. This kind of mass data collections and retention raises questions and concerns about the balance between your rights and government's law enforcement powers.

  • Assessment and Review

    Review Questions

    • Why does data retention matter? What are the tradeoffs?
    • Can you give an example of a bad experience with data retention?
    • Why is it so risky to retain everything? How does it impact your privacy?
    • How much data retention is too much?
    • What was learned from the data retention activities?
    • How will you teach others about data retention?