When your digital traces are combined to tell stories about you, they create a profile - this is your digital shadow. Digital Shadows can give others tremendous insight into your life, and they can also provide a totally wrong impression about you.

'Youth and Media - Digital Dossier' published on Aug 13, 2008 by digitalnatives in collaboration with Mark Cheney.

Think back to the last time you used digital technology (i.e., your mobile phone or computer.)

  • How long ago was this? And what was this last activity?
  • Was it a conversation, a tweet, google maps, an amazon order?
  • Was it something personal?
  • Would this small perhaps mundane activity be recognizably yours?
  • Could it be a truthful trace of you?

Perhaps yes, but maybe also no. This trace, this single digital trace, does not reveal much. Yet what happens if we took every single digital trace that you made this past week? So every alarm, every text, every search, every wifi login, every phone call, every photo, every Instagram, every Tweet, every conversation, each moved location - and recorded it all. Then what happens if we collected these traces over a month, or a few months, or even a few years? What would these traces in combination reveal about you? What story would they tell? Could they expose patterns about your behavior? How accurate would they be as a representation of your life?

The truth is, these small data trails are being recorded. They always have been. Whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not, we all have digital data shadows, otherwise known as digital dossiers. These are the combination, or rather the superset of your digital traces. They are the collection of all your online personal data, private records, public online identity, movements, and search histories.

In the digital world, everyone has a shadow” - Tactical Technology Collective, Me and My Shadow