Adventures (and Misadventures) in Data Privacy

Person on screen in mask and glasses at Target checkout, labeled "recording in progress"
Take that, Target checkout facial recognition systems! Janet Vertesi 2023

Let's just say, I am not known for taking the easy path. 

Data autonomy is a way of life for me. That means that everything I'll review on this site and relate to you is born out of my own experience. I really do live with these technologies, and I'd like to help you find your tech ecosystem of preference too.

That said, sometimes I take on ... bigger challenges.

Keeping a pregnancy undetectable is a famous one, but there have been many others. Building phones. Leaving Google. Free-wheeling stories of dogged persistence in the face of sociotechnical mayhem.

Most of what makes these stories interesting is that they're not just about a technical problem: these are social conundrums too. How do I tell my kid's daycare that they need to unsubscribe me from their big brotheresque tracking app? Or tell a friend to change their kindly-gifted subscription to deliver to an obfuscated address? 

Then there are bigger, zanier experiments too. Like the time I took my family to Disneyland: burner phone, facial-recognition-thwarting makeup, and all.

I often write publicly about those experiments. When that's the case, I'll post technical details under "stories" to explain my choices in more detail for those who want to follow along.

These stories are unusual, yes, but they typically relay some insight I gleaned along the way, about which challenges are truly facing us when it comes to data privacy and autonomy.

Hopefully my experience shows what it's like where the rubber hits the road when it comes to data privacy. Opting out can be complicated, true. But the complications I encounter help me to identify the sociological problems that undergird these technologies, and how to surmount them.

Addressing those underlying problems, I believe, can make opting out easier for all. 


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