Today investigative reporter Julia Angwin speaks to Fresh Air about her extreme efforts to erase her digital footprint. Part of that work involved developing a better understanding of what kind of data is out there and where it comes from. Here she explains data brokers:
"Data brokers began by compiling very simple information from the Yellow Pages, the White Pages and government directories. The property records in your state are publicly on file somewhere, the data brokers will go buy it and put it in their dossier. At the same time, your address is usually on-file [in] many places with magazines or newspapers you subscribe to. … Also the post office sells access to its change of address list.
What’s happening now in the digital era is that they’re adding to their files with all sorts of digital information, so they can find out about you, what you’re doing online, what you’re buying online. … So now these records that they have are getting much more precise. They’re no longer just being used to send you junk mail that you can throw away. Now they’re being used online as well to help places figure out who you are as soon as you arrive at their website. They can make an instant assessment by matching your online stuff to some of the online data…
I found out there are a lot of data brokers out there. It took me almost a month to compile a list, because there’s no real list of who are they all, and I was able to identify about 200 or so of them. Of those, very few were willing to let me see my data. It was about a dozen that would let me see my data: some of the bigger brokers, LexisNexis, Axium, and some very small outfits.
… What was shocking about it was that it ranged from incredibly precise — every single address I’d ever lived at including the number on my dorm room in college, which I couldn’t even remember … to very imprecise, inaccurate things … that were not at all true — that I was a single mother … with no college education living in a place I didn’t live.”
Angwin’s book is called Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance
graffiti by Banksy
God damn it….
The 73-year-old Japanese animation titan Hayao Miyazaki says The Wind Rises is his final film, and if that’s true—and I hope it’s not but fear it is, since he’s not the type to make rash declarations—if that’s true, he’s going out on a high. The movie won’t, I’m afraid, appeal to kids the way Ponyo or Spirited Away does. It’s monster-, ghost-, and mermaid-free. It centers on grown-ups and is gently paced—maybe 15 minutes too long, I’d say, but you can forgive those longueurs when the work is this exquisite. It’s romantic, tragic, and inexorably strange, a portrait of a young Japanese man who dreams of creating flying machines and the Imperial Empire that funds his research. His country will take those machines and send them off to rain death and destruction on its enemies—but that’s not something to which the young designer gives too much thought. It’s not part of the dream of flight.