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    NPR Series on a Typical Person’s ‘Vivid’ Digital Picture

    NPR’s All Tech Considered works with the Center for Investigative Reporting to discuss how much personal data a person can leave in his or her digital trail and what this means for the individual’s privacy:

    While the collection of private information by the National Security Agency is under scrutiny worldwide, a remarkable amount of your digital trail is also available to local law enforcement officers, IRS investigators, the FBI and private attorneys. And in some cases, it can be used against you.

    This week, NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting are documenting just how vivid the typical person’s digital picture has become — and how easy it can be for others to see it.

    Read the full report at and tune in to the four-part series on All Things Considered starting tonight. The stories examine a day in the life of your data, how marketers track you, the power of the subpoena, and the larger consequences of living in a world of big data.

    NPR and CIR found that there’s a wide range of ostensibly private data that’s obtainable even without court approval:

    • Law enforcement can create a map or timeline of a person’s whereabouts by accessing data from license-plate scanners, toll-bridge crossings and mobile phone carriers and, without much trouble, access records on your power consumption, purchasing habits and even snail mail.

    And while most of us know we’re leaving behind a digital trail, consider how intricate that trail is and how easy it is for law enforcement, private investigators and marketers to paint a data portrait based on your actions throughout the day. […]

    The series also looks at your commute to and from work:

    • Surveillance cameras in subway stations and on city buses watch you board and depart.
    • To automatically identify celebrities and regular customers when they enter a store, some retailers reportedly are using another facial recognition technology originally developed in the U.K. for spotting terrorists and criminals.
    • Meanwhile, smart cards log when and where you travel using public transportation. […]
    Many people don’t know their medical records are available to investigators and private attorneys.

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