Got Nothing to Hide? Think again

Each waking moment of each day, most of us leave a trail of data behind, like breadcrumbs but not for cute fairytale purposes, rather the opposite, for others to collect, combine with other data, analyse, alter and even sell- all without your consent and often without your knowledge.

In January 2020, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a revised version of My Privacy Everyday, which includes a 19 row table marking the time of day and data we leave behind, generally speaking.

Now, if I were to actually track the amount of times each day I take a photo, text a friend, download an app, or use location services in Google Maps to get to an offsite meeting, I could easily have a multipage document listing hundreds of transactions more than the 19 recorded on the example table from the OIPC.

Cell phone use fills the example table in a variety of ways from texts, app downloads, phone calls, game playing, as well as the ways your cell phone uses you, such as when you drive to a coffee shop- your route is being plotted. Now let us say you use an app to pay for your latte, you are adding rows to your daily table ( and I don’t know about you, but I line up more than once a day for a foamy latte). I got to thinking, how would my table look if I were to track my data breadcrumbs for a day.

I started by considering my alarm, which no longer is a bedside contraption, but an App on my cell phone. The Clock App has permissions to read the contents of my shared storage phone files.

I put on my watch, which comes from a nightly docking station, it has its own phone number and GPS. It tracks my heart rate all-the-time and has permissions to most Apps and information on my phone including my Calendar and Location.

From there I turn on the World News, by streaming onto the family room television. I sit on my phone with a coffee late and comment on funny cat videos that my grandmother posted to Facebook the previous evening. Additionally today, I searched Google for ‘Signs my cat is in labour’. I proceeded to make a call to my vet, but searching the clinic’s phone number online.

By 8:00am, I have restocked my office supplies via an online Staples order, where I paid with my credit card through the secure checkout. I added my home address for FREE delivery AND I took the survey for my chance to WIN a prize.

9:00am, upon the discovery that we are out of dog food, I placed another online order, this time with Amazon. While I am thinking about food, I log into the Hello Fresh App and choose the family’s meals for the week while sharing with them cookies and other automatic data collected from their site. So far the Apps I have used today all store my information in California, out of reach of the Canadian Privacy Legislation which protects me.

I get in my truck and head to town. By the time I arrived at the local store I had driven by 3 camera equipped intersections, was included in a selfie photo taken from the car next to me,  and all with location services accidently left on on my phone. I proceeded to purchase items under video surveillance (not by choice), paid with my credit card, and collected loyalty program points. I had shared my information nearly a dozen more times.

By this point I want to stop thinking about how much data I am leaving behind for others to collect, use, modify, and sell so I turn off my phone and start my truck, initiating the built in wifi and OnStar Communication system. As I drive home, I am still dropping data bread crumbs. Ug.

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