Channel 4 in the UK have launched an interesting experiment called Data Baby.
Using the online persona of a fictional 27 year-old woman called Rebecca Taylor, the idea is to highlight just how easily the breadcrumb trail we leave behind as we move around the internet can be tied together to identify us.
So far, the only tangible piece of Rebecca’s personal information the program makers have released is her her email address (they’ve disclosed her age, approximate location and a couple of hobbies, which I used to validate I’d found the “right” Rebecca Taylor – see below).
Now, I wouldn’t in any way consider myself an expert in digital surveillance or tracking but using nothing more sophisticated than a Google search against her email address and then following the trail, I was able to find these details in less than 20 minutes:
(note – I’ve used white text for the answers, in case anyone reading this is playing along and doesn’t want to see any spoilers. Just highlight the section below to see what I found.)
Her Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105863467672499482640/about
The Festival: Latitude (this was one of the data points C4 was after)
Went to Uni at: University of Manchester
Previous school: Cedar Mount Academy, Manchester
Currently works at the Green Deal Hub (http://www.thegreendealhub.co.uk/the-green-deal-hub-welcomes-rebecca-taylor/)
Her LinkedIn Page: uk.linkedin.com/pub/rebecca-taylor/68/8a9/4b3
Her Twitter Page: @BeccaInLondon
Her Pinterest Page: http://pinterest.com/beccainlondon/
Her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/people/Rebecca-Taylor/100005380538070
Other breadcrumbs: She likes cupcakes and brownies, The XX, Daft Punk and De La Soul
I imagine that if I were smarter and a little more evil, I could probably use this information to socially engineer a password reset to something Rebecca really values.
Pretty scary when you consider it took me more effort to write this post than to find Rebecca’s details, but perhaps that’s the point of the project. Well, ok, maybe not to scare people, but to highlight why protecting our digital identities isn’t just something for the geeks and IT folk to worry about. We’ve all got skin in this game.