Post-Snowden, several highly-publicised events and scandals have drawn attention to the use of people’s personal data by other actors and agencies, both legally and illicitly. In this article, we report the findings of a project in which we used cultural probes to generate discussion about personal digital dataveillance. Our findings suggest the prevailing dominance of tacit assumptions about the uses and benefits of dataveillance as well as fears and anxieties about its possible misuse. Participants were able to identify a range of ways in which dataveillance is conducted, but were more aware of obvious commercial and some government actors. There was very little identification of the types of dataveillance that are used by national security and policing agencies or of illegal access by hackers and cybercriminals. We found that the participants recognised the value of both personal data and the big aggregated data sets that their own data may be part of, particularly for their own convenience. However, they expressed concern or suspicion about how these data may be used by others, often founded on a lack of knowledge about what happens to their data. The major question for our participants was where the line should be drawn. When does personal dataveillance become too intrusive, scary or creepy? What are its drawbacks and risks? Our findings suggest that experimenting with innovative approaches to elicit practices and understandings of personal digital data offers further possibilities for greater depth and breadth of social research with all types of social groups.
- Personal data
- Public understandings