Privacy Law

Lawyer Documents Her Data Trail, Revealing Corporate Role in Daily Lives

Big brother is a corporation, and it’s watching.

The executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, Heidi Boghosian, documented her one-day “data trail” for the New York Times blog the Caucus. Boghosian has written a book expected to be published next year called Spying on Democracy: A Short History of Government/Corporate Collusion in the Technology Age.

Using the Internet or carrying a smartphone creates a data trail, the blog says, while cameras monitor our movements.

Boghosian passed cameras in a private apartment building, at an ATM, on the subway platform, at the office, in the grocery store, in a restaurant and likely in an unmarked police van at a protest.

She also noted GPS tracking on her iPhone and user tracking through her customer loyalty card, Facebook use, Internet searches, credit card purchase and Google searches. In Macy’s shoe department, she encounters another type of tracking: radio-frequency identification chips. (Macy’s uses the chips to track inventory and find merchandise that is out of stock in one store but available in another, Forbes reported in July.) She also passes by a digital billboard that uses cameras to gauge the demographics of those nearby and tailor its advertising. (The billboards use facial recognition technology, the New York Times reported last November.)

“Definitely, for me, going through the process reinforced my sense of the role corporations play in our daily lives,” Boghosian told the Caucus. “And I don’t think most people realize the extent to which corporations cooperate in turning over personal information to the government.”

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