One Woman’s Data Trail Diary

One Woman’s Data Trail Diary

Scott Shane
New York Times
Fri, 08/31/2012

As part of The Agenda, The Times’s look at major issues facing the next administration, we have been examining the trade-offs, more than a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, between security and privacy and civil liberties. Some readers have written in about the electronic data trail that all of us leave as we go about our lives, using the Internet and carrying smartphones.

Heidi Boghosian, a New Yorker and author of a book on surveillance scheduled for publication next year, “Spying on Democracy: A Short History of Government/Corporate Collusion in the Technology Age,” agreed to try to document her own data trail on one recent day. Her account, below, is nothing extraordinary – and that’s the point. It is impossible to live in urban, wired America without leaving clues about ourselves, our movements and our views everywhere. And it is all but impossible to be certain who is looking at the resulting data or video and how much of it is accessible to federal, state or local government.

Ms. Boghosian is executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, a group of self-described radical lawyers and law students founded in 1937, and between her day job and her book research, she thinks far more than most people about surveillance and privacy. But the exercise of documenting her day was nonetheless informative, she said.

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