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

Follow Your Data Trail

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

Discover how a large amount of data can be collected about you just through your movement in the real and digital worlds, learning about Web mechanics and privacy.

30 minutes

  • Introduction

    When you jump in your car each day to go about your life, it feels private. You probably don't think about who is watching and what they can learn about you. In this activity, you'll collect the type of data that differnt online and offline surveillance tools can gather about you. You may be surprised by how much sensitive information about you gets revealed by where you go.

  • 15

    Build your Data Trail

    Make a list of all the places you've gone today, yesterday, and earlier in the week. Think about the last month and record as many places as you can remember. Take a close look at what you've recorded. What might someone learn about you from that data?

    Next, add the dates and times for each location. How much more information can be gained by adding these pieces?

    Now think about who was with you and add that to your data.

  • 15

    Reflect on Your Data Trail

    What does your data trail reveal about you? Consider these questions as you reflect on how comfortable you are with companies and governments collecting information like this about you and the people around you. Answer these questions for yourself or discuss them in your group.

    • Consider sharing this information with the person next to you. How comfortable would you with be the sensitivity of the data that is revealed?
    • If you're in a group, consider having everyone add their list to a box and have each person randomly draw a list from the box. What can you learn about the person whose list you've drawn?
    • What might a government learn if they gathered this type of data from an individual or by following a particular group of people?
    • What could a government learn if they had this type of data from an entire country?

    Would you be comfortable sharing this list with your local police department?

    Did you know an automatic license plate reader can bring up this kind of information about you? Police can use such tools to gather information about you by pulling your name from your license plate. Are you comfortable with having your license plate read when you park your car - at a place of worship, a political rally, a casino?

    Data collection can begin online or off, but the Web makes it especially easy to connect pieces of metadata about you into a larger picture revealing a lot about your habits and life. How do you think privacy balances with companies and governments' data collection practices? Why should people know about the information they "give away" just by picking up a smartphone to make a call or read a text?