24 Hour Media Diary: Data Privacy Edition

How much data is collected about me each day?

Most of us are aware that data is being collected about us when we interact with the internet: personal & biometric data, behavioral data, and interests & affinities. Personal data is challenging to avoid giving out, seeing as we’re asked to create so many online accounts in any given week for many areas of our life like school, work, health, insurance, recreation, travel, and so much more.

Data collected about our online behavior, interests, and affinities are less apparent and arguably harder to keep track of. In keeping this 24 media diary, I’m interested to become more familiar with just how much of my data is making its way into the hands of these organizations.

Media Diary

9:00 AM: The first app I use within the hour of waking up is Discord to say good morning to my long-distance partner. Discord has a very clear privacy policy that outlines specifics like the data they collect, how they use the data, and how they share the data. Because the formatting of the text makes the 15-section long privacy policy much easier to skim, scan, and read, it feels like Discord is trying to be transparent about their policy.

Discord’s Privacy Policy Outline

When companies don’t format the text to make it easier for users to read, it makes me feel as though they’re trying to deter readers from reading in-depth – like the organization has something to hide. Discord’s privacy policy, however, is formatted very well with good information architecture, short line lengths, comfortable line spacing, and a thin paragraph text line-weight that contrasts nicely with the bolded headlines.

Of course my personal data such as name, email, and birthday is shared with the platform. Other data they collect includes:

  • purchase information for my subscription
  • content I create (it is a messaging platform, after all)
  • actions such as joining servers, adding friends, and content moderation decisions

It’s interesting to learn that Discord collects data about content moderation decisions. I’m a moderator for two servers, and am active in an academic server where I don’t have a special role but am a tutor who occasionally helps students in the server. I’ll be in and out of Discord throughout the entire day, which probably gives them that much more data to analyze!

Image Credit: Alexander Shatov, Unsplash

10:30 AM: While listening to Spotify, I start working on a Twitter analytics report where I was given raw data out of which to pull actionable insights that would help stakeholders understand the current and potential performance of the account. To do this I use Microsoft Office Online, Google Slides, and Google Search. 

Microsoft has an extensive privacy policy that discusses the general policy, product-specific policies, and country-specific policies. Some data collection that pertains to me includes personal data, cookies (to collect behavioral data), and diagnostic data.

Google has an even more extensive privacy policy that feels like it even has its own website. Google’s vast product & service range includes Google Search (which has a whopping 92% market share), numerous personal devices, numerous smart home devices, numerous business & marketing platforms, and more. As a result of having so many products & services from which they collect data, their privacy policy is one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen — even going so far as to include videos.

Google probably knows me better than anyone at this point, and collects personal data, behavioral data, and data that tells them about my interests. That may sound like I just said that about all the other platforms, but it’s important to keep in mind that Google has so many products & services that while they’re collecting the same types of data, it’s on a much larger scale.

Aside from Google Search itself, the search results I clicked on took me to websites that were also collecting data about me. I was researching how to write better data analytics reports, and came across articles such as this one where StudyBay’s privacy policy states that it collects personal, device, and behavior data. I appreciate that StudyBay also has User Agreement, Cookie Policy, and Data Security pages. 

Spotify’s privacy policy includes an entire table where they outline their purpose for processing each type of data they collect.

Screenshot from Spotify’s Privacy Policy

They want to know what I listen to, how often, for how long, with whom I share it with, and other data points that paint a picture of how I get value out of their platform. This will certainly shape their algorithm that decides what content to show me in the future, based on what it thinks I like from this behavioral data.

3:00 PM: I’m done with homework for the day, so for the rest of the day my media platform usage is more recreational. I check Instagram, where I’ve had the most recent data privacy scare as a result of the precise location meme that was going around about a recent update. Whenever I see something like this, I research the topic to understand more about the situation.

4:30 PM: I’m walking down the apparel fabrics aisle at Joann Fabrics and I receive a notification on my phone (which particularly caught my attention because I keep my phone on do not disturb) that my new Macbook Pro is no longer in range. While I appreciate the attempt at alerting me if it’s stolen, I simply walked away from my parked car (where my Macbook was) to go into Joann Fabrics.

In this case, Apple was using a very real-time analysis of my location data to give me a “time-sensitive” notification. Once I got back home from Joann Fabrics, I worked on a sewing project for the rest of the night and only used Discord, Spotify, and Instagram until I went to bed.

Reflection

A huge theme in how I use these platforms is that I use Google (Chrome, Drive, Search, etc), Spotify, and Discord for hours on end throughout the day. This probably means that they gather a lot of usage data from me. Upon reading and watching the materials for Digital Media Literacy: Module 3, I’m strongly considering security technologies such as a password manager and a VPN to have an added layer of security.

Because I don’t check Instagram (the only social app that I use) that often, it feels as though I don’t have that much data collected about me. The reality is, however, I’m online almost 24/7 between school, work, and maintaining my relationship with my long-distance partner. I’ll be taking data privacy and data security more seriously after realizing just how many platforms are collecting my data.