What does my online behaviour say about my privacy needs?

The BigFoot Digital Footprint experiment has noticed something pretty interesting among the users participating with the BigFoot Digital app. It can be argued many of its participants are not aware of their explicit footprint.

The experiment has attracted over 300 users with preliminary results are showing an interesting bias. Users tend to be more aware of what others are doing with their posts (like, comment etc.) than what they are doing with the posts of others. This would confirm that it is more important to us as users how other people engage with our posts than how we engage with other people's posts. This, however, if the data continues to hold up, points to a mismatch in awareness of what we are engaging with online. Meaning, many users aren’t concerned with privacy issues monitoring their data use.

People are using social media differently across the age groups,” explained Dr Kevin Koidl, key researcher developing and studying the BigFoot Digital Footprint experiment. “Anonymity is becoming key amongst younger users. In the US, for example, the younger generation are sharing content across AirDrop, because it provides them with the security they want. They are shying away from sharing revealing images, for example, over the more mainstream services. Whereas people of an older generation might think posting an image on Facebook is just for their friends, not realising the world can see it.”

This would make sense if you think about it. Many of our younger generations have been born into the world of digital content. They come into the world already learning how to use digital devices. Older generations are using the content and engaging, but learned how to conduct information exchange differently. These exchanges occurred without such minute observations; perhaps with a pen and concealed paper via snail mail, through a secure landline, face-to-face interactions in a local venue with maybe a surveillance camera in place monitoring for security interests. Having been raised with an intrinsic and culturally accepted notion that social circles and engagement aren’t visible to all, the behaviour transfers online. The younger generations see that they can explore strangers from anywhere in the world, and thus, conceal their digital information more safely.

To fully grasp your explicit digital footprint, users require knowledge and insight into each and every application emitting data about the user. This includes every online application and website, you’ve downloaded on your cell phone, the extensions on your web browsers, you history files at work, at home, and at school; all digital manners in which you engage. Remember, your data represents you and your behaviour. And much like in the real-world you are responsible for what people and algorithms think you stand for. Data awareness is the cornerstone of what it means to be a Digital Citizen.

To fully control your privacy interests over past data you can try to delete aspects of the data that you don't like. This can include cleaning up your social media profiles and updating pages and applications that you have access to. A more radical approach is to avail of the EU 'Right to be forgotten' directive. Based on this you can request data to be deleted including search index links. This may mean the source website is still accessible however it will not show in search results anymore. For future data the simple answer is, increase your data awareness by keeping in mind that every click you make is added to an overall footprint that represents who you are.

Remain involved in the conversation. BigFoot.ie has a conversation zone, where digital citizens work as citizen scientists creating and engaging with the research. From today’s topic on privacy concerns, log into the app for the forum or simply go to the website. You’ll see suggestions on how to better control your privacy interests, and you’ll be able to share your own insights. See you soon and remain vigilant.

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  • Daniel Turner

    How does bigfoot interact with the public to raise awareness about these issues?

    • Yeah, so we’ve got a bunch of options out there. One of the best is perhaps out monthly Ethics & Privacy lecture series hosted by the centre itself, adaptcentre.ie. We typically do these events once a month with the day and time dependent on the lecturer. If you can to check out specific details e-mail adapt-epqg@adaptcentre.ie. Not only does the centre have the BigFoot.ie Facebook app, but it’s also got an ETHICS Canvas where the public can talk about the ethical dillemas involved in innovative development before a project begins. You can read more and find links here: https://www.adaptcentre.ie/case-studies/ethics-and-privacy-research-initiative