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coined the term digital natives in their 2008 book, Born Digital, a book the authors conceded at the time would be out of date almost as soon as it hit bookstores.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?

    How getting in sync with your partner can lead to increased intimacy and sexual desire

    Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.

    Pixabay
    Sex & Relationships
    • Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
    • The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn't know each other.
    • Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.
    Keep reading Show less

    How humans evolved to live in the cold

    Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

    Image source: Wikimedia Commons
    Surprising Science
    • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
    • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
    • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
    Keep reading Show less

    Stan Lee, Marvel co-creator, is dead at 95

    The comics titan worked for more than half a century to revolutionize and add nuance to the comics industry, and he built a vast community of fans along the way.

    (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
    Culture & Religion
    • Lee died shortly after being rushed to an L.A. hospital. He had been struggling with multiple illnesses over the past year, reports indicate.
    • Since the 1950s, Lee has been one of the most influential figures in comics, helping to popularize heroes that expressed a level of nuance and self-doubt previously unseen in the industry.
    • Lee, who's later years were marked by some financial and legal tumult, is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee.
    Keep reading Show less