Do Not Track: Interactive Film Series Reveals the Personal Information You’re Giving Away on the Web

If Face­book knows every­thing about you, it’s because you hand­ed it the keys to your king­dom.  You post­ed a pho­to, liked a favorite child­hood TV show, and will­ing­ly vol­un­teered your birth­day. In oth­er words, you hand­ed it all the data it needs to annoy you with tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing.

(In my case, it’s an ancient secret that helped a mid­dle aged mom shave 5 inch­es off her waist­line. Let me save you a click: acai berries.)

Film­mak­er Brett Gay­lor (a “lefty Cana­di­an dad who reads sci­ence fic­tion) seeks to set the record straight regard­ing the web economy’s impact on per­son­al pri­va­cy.

Watch­ing his inter­ac­tive doc­u­men­tary web series, Do Not Track, you’ll inevitably arrive at a cross­roads where you must decide whether or not to share your per­son­al infor­ma­tion. No big­gie, right? It’s what hap­pens every time you con­sent to “log in with Face­book.”

Every time you choose this con­ve­nience, you’re allow­ing Google and oth­er big time track­ers to stick a har­poon (aka cook­ie) in your side. Swim all you want, lit­tle fishy. You’re not exact­ly get­ting away, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you’re logged in with a mobile device with a com­pul­sion to reveal your where­abouts.

You say you have noth­ing to hide? Bul­ly for you! What you may not have con­sid­ered is the impact your dig­i­tal easy-breezi­ness has on friends. Your net­work. And vice ver­sa. Tag away!

In this are­na, every “like”—from an acquaintance’s recent­ly launched organ­ic skin­care line to Star Trekhelps track­ers build a sur­pris­ing­ly accu­rate por­trait, one that can be used to deter­mine how insur­able you are, how wor­thy of a loan. Gen­der and age aren’t the only fac­tors that mat­ter here. So does your demon­strat­ed extra­ver­sion, your degree of open­ness.

(Ha ha, and you thought it cost you noth­ing to “like” that acquaintance’s smelly straw­ber­ry-scent­ed mois­tur­iz­er!)

To get the most out of Do Not Track, you’ll want to sup­ply its pro­duc­ers with your email address on your first vis­it. It’s a lit­tle counter-intu­itive, giv­en the sub­ject mat­ter, but doing so will pro­vide you with a unique con­fig­u­ra­tion that promis­es to lift the veil on what the track­ers know about you.

What does it say about me that I couldn’t get my Face­book log-in to work? How dis­ap­point­ing that this fail­ure meant I would be view­ing results tai­lored to Episode 3’s star, Ger­man jour­nal­ist Richard Gut­jahr?

(Your pro­file… says that your age is 42 and your gen­der is male. But the real gold mine is your Face­book data over time. By ana­lyz­ing the at least 129 things you have liked on Face­book, we have used our advanced algo­rithm tech­niques to assess your per­son­al­i­ty and have found you scored high­est in Open­ness which indi­cates you are cre­ative, imag­i­na­tive, and adven­tur­ous. Our per­son­al­i­ty eval­u­a­tion sys­tem uses Psy­cho-demo­graph­ic trait pre­dic­tions pow­ered by the Apply Mag­ic Sauce API devel­oped at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge Psy­cho­met­rics Cen­tre.)

I think the take­away is that I am not too on top of my pri­va­cy set­tings. And why would I be? I’m an extro­vert with noth­ing to hide, except my spend­ing habits, brows­ing his­to­ry, race, age, mar­i­tal sta­tus…

Should we take a tip from our high school brethren, who evade the scruti­ny of col­lege admis­sions coun­selors by adopt­ing some ridicu­lous, evoca­tive pseu­do­nym? Expect upcom­ing episodes of Do Not Track to help us nav­i­gate these and oth­er dig­i­tal issues.

Tune in to Do Not Track here. You can find episodes 1, 2 and 3 cur­rent­ly online. Episodes 4–6 will roll out between May 12 and June 9.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Internet’s Own Boy: New Doc­u­men­tary About Aaron Swartz Now Free Online

A Threat to Inter­net Free­dom: Film­mak­er Bri­an Knap­pen­berg­er Explains Why Net Neu­tral­i­ty Mat­ters

How Brew­ster Kahle and the Inter­net Archive Will Pre­serve the Infi­nite Infor­ma­tion on the Web

Ayun Hal­l­i­day an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine invites you to look into her very soul @AyunHalliday

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.