Do You Know What's In Your Digital Dossier?

Do you know what is in your digital dossier? Since you began to have a life on the Web, data has been accruing about the habits and interests of your online life. The generation of young people emerging in the digital age have the unique experience of having the entirety of their lives immersed in digital data. In fact, the generation of “digital natives” is having their digital dossier populated with data before they are born, and even after they will die.

John Palfrey and Urs Gasser first coined the term digital natives in their 2008 book, Born Digital, a book the authors conceded at the time would be out of date almost as soon as it hit bookstores. And yet, to keep up with the rate of technological change, the authors set up a wiki-website that includes videos from digital natives such as the one below that explains the way in which the digital dossier works.


What’s the Big Idea?

Digital dossiers are an aspect of life online that is common to all, yet many users may not even realize the amount of data they are responsible for. A digital dossier is a superset of all your online data that includes secure private records as well as your public online identity. In addition to your contributions to the dossier, other people can make contributions to your dossier with pictures and other additions to the subset of data that makes up your public identity online.

Here is how the dossier grows:

  • Before a digital native is born, a sonogram image is taken at the hospital and sent around. The dossier is started before the digital native’s birth.
  • As the digital native becomes able to independently navigate the web, an identity is created about his or her habits and interests and the dossier grows from there evermore.
  • A basic google search about fantasy baseball, for example, is stored in search engine servers and the user’s IP address is tagged with a unique cookie.
  • In future searches, the user may find strategically placed advertisements for websites selling discounted baseball hats or tickets based upon the information that the dossier reveals about the user’s interests.
  • The video below illustrates the way your digital dossier accumulates data.

    Watch here:


    What’s the Significance?

    So who’s reading your online biography? For one, advertisers are particularly avid readers of the information that dossiers provide. Palfrey and Gasser argue that we live with these innovations largely because the conveniences of the web outweigh the discomfort of having personal info revealed. For the digital native generation, the choice between the conveniences of the web and personal data discomfort are clear. Parents observe that digital Natives’ connectivity to the web or cell phones goes beyond obsession, it is an extension of their existence. New strategies to target or persuade digital natives will likely involve deeper mining into their dossiers. Should people be more cognizant of their digital dossier? It is not unheard of for human resource executives to search applicant’s digital histories for any red flags. Scrubbing your digital history might be a good idea for anyone who is worried about their online biography. Harmful information could lead to digital blackmail or worse. The Green Revolution in Iran of 2009 was a landmark in digital revolution techniques. It was an innovative time for digital repressions as well. Iran’s ruling regime used digital dossiers to trace revolutionaries. Dissidents in Iran have reportedly been interrogated via Skype. So not all digital dossiers are harmless.

    Can the accumulation of a digital dossier be in some ways more humanizing? Well, your digital dossier can help you find things you really want, it can help companies provide better service, and perhaps in the future the world-wide-web will be tailored to fit you. Can you think of any other ways that the digital dossier makes web life more human offline?

    LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

    Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

    Getty Images
    Sponsored
    Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

    No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

    Keep reading Show less

    Kosovo land swap could end conflict - or restart war

    Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

    Image: SRF
    Strange Maps
    • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
    • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
    • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

    The death of Old Yugoslavia

    Image: public domain

    United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

    Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

    The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

    After the wars

    Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

    Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

    The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

    So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it wasn't: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Serbians are historically very attached to it. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

    Kosovo divides the world

    Image: public domain

    In red: states that recognise the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

    The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it actually has a lot of international support for that position (2).

    The irony is that on the longer term, both Kosovo and Serbia want the same thing: EU membership. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

    Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued, between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

    Land for peace?

    Image: BBC

    Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

    In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

    The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

    The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

    If others can do it...

    Image: Ruland Kolen

    Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

    Sceptics and not a few locals warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

    Western powers, which sponsored Kosovar independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

    In principle, countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging, but land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the Meuse river (3). But those bits of land were tiny, and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders carry a lot more weight in the Balkans.

    Keep reading Show less

    Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

    The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

    Michael Drosnin
    Surprising Science
    • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
    • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
    • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
    Keep reading Show less
    Videos
    • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
    • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
    • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
    Keep reading Show less