Current definition

Data trails

Data trails refer to the growing amount of personal information that is generated through our digital behavior and recorded by the increasing use of different digital services, systems, and tools.

For example, the smartphone that tracks our location, the search engine that records a history of terms, the social media profile that stores bios, pictures and updates of our lives.

As they accumulate, they aggregate trails of our behavior that can be used to identify individuals, even if each underlying visit / bit of information was supposedly or originally anonymous. In this respect, a data trail is synonymous with one use of the term defacto ID.

Last updated: 26 April 2021

Source: #GoodID team

See also: Defacto ID

More around the web

"Everywhere we are leaving trails of “breadcrumbs” behind us – voluntarily and involuntarily, like with online transactions or mobile telephone and GPS signals. All these personal data are creating an increasingly intimate record of our lives – both for ourselves and for those who, for one reason or another, want to know more about us."

The I Cannot be Rescued: Data Trails and Digital Identity – Andrew Keen, Digital culture critic

"Consumers would be surprised at how much data is held, to what extent their day-to-day lives generate all this information. The analysis can be very revealing. Something as minor as a postcode can tell you what someone living there earns, what they spend and where, giving a tremendous steer for financial products."

The Data Trails that Reveal Every Detail of our Lives – Adrian Lowcock, Bestinvest

“We humans are now walking, talking data factories. Passing through a subway turnstile, sending a text, even just carrying a phone in your pocket: we generate location-tagged data on an hourly basis. All that data can be a boon for urban planners and designers who want to understand cities–and, of course, for tech companies and advertisers who want to understand the people in them.

Sorry, Your Data Can Still be Identified Even if it’s Anonymized – Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Fast Company

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