THE trend of searching your name on Google has died down, but there is a very important reason why we should pick up the habit again.
GOOGLE allows us to research any topic imaginable and instantly have thousands of resources at our fingertips.
So what do most people do when given access to such a wealth of information?
We google ourselves, of course.
We’re all guilty of typing our name into Google to indulge our vanity and see what comes up. Usually after a few minutes we get bored, move onto something else and forget about it.
But there is actually a very good reason why you should regularly search your name and it has to do with your personal data.
The idea of why googling yourself is important was presented as part of Data Futures, a live experiment presented at Sydney’s Vivid festival.
Andrea Lau and Martin von Lupin from data specialist company Small Multiples spoke about how regularly searching yourself online allows you insight into how much of your personal data is actually out there — and it’s probably a lot more than you think.
Data Futures is a live experiment created by developers Dominikus Baur and Daniel Goddemeyer as a way to represent in real-time how personal data is collected and how it can be misused.
“There are two sides to data collection. On one side there are times when you know you are giving your data away and you know what is being done with it; for example, when you post stuff on Facebook you know people are going to see that,” Mr von Lupin told news.com.au.
“Then there is a whole hidden side where you enter your name and email address for a newsletter or something similar and you have no idea what is being done with it and what other data sets it might be linked with.”
Mr von Lupin said that, though it might not seem like you are giving out much information, it can come back in ways you wouldn’t expect.
“It is important to know about the more obvious side of data collection but also the lesser known side, so you can make more conscious decisions about how much information you give out,” he said.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal Ms Lau said consumers were starting to become more aware of the sheer amount of unconscious data being collected on a daily basis.
During the live experiment, participants were asked to use their phones to answer a number of questions. As everyone answered, figures for the chosen options were displayed on a big screen.
The questions started off as details that people give out on a daily basis such as age, job and gender. It then moved on to questions that were slightly more personal but wouldn’t seem to have any negative implications like how many hours you slept, the number of drinks you had last week, if you watched the royal wedding, and your relationship status.
The data was then divided into certain demographics and the participants realised personal information that didn’t seem important on its own could be used to single them out when used in conjunction with other seemingly innocuous data.
Ms Lau said there were a lot of positive ways this type of data could help people understand more about themselves and their habits.
“If you collect your own personal data you can see patterns and trends over time,” she said. “Something as simple as Fitbit is really revealing to the individual and can have a positive feedback loop if you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight or get fitter.
“But there is also the other side where unknown corporations can easily obtain that data, or any other information you unknowingly give out, and use it in ways that could have negative effects.
“In some cases people can be judged in ways they didn’t expect. They can be targeted because of their beliefs or the type of person they are.”