Data Double: Implications of the Digital Trail

Since personal information is out there because of our daily activities this creates an electronic copy of what we do, what we enjoy, where we work, live, visit etc., which is essentially known as our data double. “Data doubles travel in and out of numerous centers of calculation and serve as markers for access to resources, services, and power” (Haggerty & Ericson, 2000). When referring to the “numerous center’s” as stated by Haggerty & Ericson (2000), this includes things like statistical institutions, police stations, financial institutions, and corporate and military head quarters. Institutions that will gain whether in profit, or control when they have access to any individual’s personal information and data doubles. This allows for it to be easier for information that is personal to be distributed to other places without the individual knowing. Such as how if a person is to log on to facebook, facebook is allowed to use that individuals information and provide it to larger corporations so that marketing is tailored to each individuals preferences. The issue is that many people are not aware that their personal information is being passed along, since many do not read the fine print, nor assume that there is the possibility that their entire digital trail will be in the possession of others. “The growth of surveillance is linked to enhanced possibilities for large-scale storage and processing of personal data as a result of the ‘voluntarily’ given consumer data, or as Davies noted, an ‘illusion of voluntariness.” (Ragnedda, 2011). As stated by Ragnedda, (2011) the 2 most interested institutions that want to collect information would be government authorities, and the second would be private corporations. However, they both have different reasons for wanting “data double”, and collecting that information. For Government agencies it is for controlling citizens, preventing or punishing crimes, while for corporations it to target customers with specific advertising that is personalized for each individual according to their personal data.

When I take a look back at the one-week snapshot of my data double it allows for me to see the potential information that is out there about me after one week of interactions, log in’s, and purchases. In the past week I have signed into my Kwantlen account, as well my Langara student site, I have used my visa, and my debit card in many locations and many different transactions. I have used loyalty cards at 2 different stores, one being Save on foods, and the other being a gas station. In the past week I have also ordered pizza, at pizza hut, which I did so by ordering online. Which I realize after listening to the link in class, that the site has a lot of my information memorized, including what my usual orders are, although this is minor in the scheme of things, it still allows for your past history to be on file which allows for companies to make offers that highlight your past purchases.. Every day things that I have never thought about, now make me wonder what information I am putting out there about my self, such as when I logged on to my Facebook, and Instagram accounts this week, did I inadvertently put out personal information that allowed for me to become a target to certain organizations? I also visited Amazon, where I do have an account, I noticed after that amazon now sends countless emails to my account with suggestions for things that I might prefer, based on past things I have purchased. Some of these various examples in the past week not only have my home address, phone number, history of preferences, but some go even deeper and specify the amount of times I do specific things or what I buy at what times, and much more. All this information can potentially lead to disastrous results if it ever came into the hands of someone with intent to do harm. “Since 2006 the value and vulnerability of personal information has become increasingly apparent with high profile information security breaches.” (ICO, 2010).

The information in my data double for the past week could allow few snapshots of my week, not for major companies, and the Government to survey personal information, but it also takes into account how privacy now days can easily be overlooked when simply clicking a few buttons. On a daily basis the information we put out there, is not only accessible to the company your providing the information to, there are times when that information can be passed along to other agencies as well. Since technology is always at an advancing state, this can lead to public information being passed to others sources much easier, as well as making it possible for people of authority such as the government to keep better track of individuals. Another implication of Data Double, is that there is always the possibility that if another individual were to get a hold of your credit card for example, and purchase something illegal then the purchase of that illegal item may fall on the owner of the credit card. This can also be applied to any other ways data double may be used in identity theft. Another implication could be that if the data double from your past has history of things such as, gambling, or certain addictions it may target you to those major corporations which will in turn make it harder for a person gambling to stay away from temptation.


Haggerty, K. D., Ericson, R.V (2000). The Surveillant Assemblage. British Journal of Sociology. 51(4), 605-622.

Information Commissioner’s Office. (2010). Information Commissioner’s Report to Parliament on the State of Surveillance. Retrieved from,

Ranedda, M. (2011). Social Control and Surveillance in the Society of Consumers. Retrieved from,


1 Comment

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One response to “Data Double: Implications of the Digital Trail

  1. The concept of an ‘illusion of voluntariness’ is very important. It relates to the (often hidden) costs of non-participation in activities that require an exchange of personal information for service.

    You note that government agencies and corporations have different reasons for conducting surveillance and piecing together data doubles. This is true, but there is important common ground – both governments and corporations are interested in developing detailed profiles of individuals and populations of interest, and both use these profiles for purposes of targeting and social sorting. Note also that the line between ‘government’ and ‘corporation’ is very blurry when it comes to surveillance – governments make use of private contractors for data management, and corporations draw on government data sets to develop statistical products. Partnerships abound.

    Your description of a week in the life of your data double is interesting. Good work on this.