back to article In detail: How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered – by online biz all day

The data collection industry, fattened on info snippets gleaned from social media and mobile devices, affects people's lives but operates without meaningful scrutiny. According to a lengthy report released on Thursday by Cracked Labs, a cultural advocacy group based in Vienna, Austria, "A data environment has emerged in which …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    1. DagD

      Re: RESIGNED

      Love the Prisoner.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RESIGNED

        He Is Unmutual.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to your Dystopian future today

    And things are only going to get worse, because there's too many low-hanging fruit types leaking data about everyone around them. I nurse-maid Win7 (w/o telemetry), use Mint wherever possible and use a dumb feature-phone no longer a high-end HTC. But its still hard to avoid leaking metadata. We are all Jews trying to hide from the 'data' Nazi's:


    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. kschrock

      It is easy to avoid this...

      Make less money. The path I have taken since my retirement.

      The people who spend so much money on this type of spying either...

      A. Already have huge amounts of money or

      B. Expect to make huge amounts of money

      They have or expect this much money because they do or will make outrageous profit margins.

      Big Brother knows how much money I make (very little), and they know I can't buy a $200,000 personal quadcopter, a $30,000 Prius, or a $1,000 iPhone. Therefore they are not interested in me.

      Problem solved.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It's complementary.

    It's not free.

    Outside Google I think we will find any telco are the second biggest data pimps.

    Which is especially annoying given you already pay for their service.

    I think Microsoft are catching up fast. Historically once they've got a competitor to destroy they get right into the swing of things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's complementary.

      The Telcos are nothing compared to the Credit bureaus and lenders. And MS is a minnow compared to a Telco.

      And they're even less invasive as a company that you've never heard of that runs a shit load of loyalty programs (if you're Canadian, you've probably heard of Air Miles and if you're American and aren't in the best health you've probably heard of the Walgreens Balance Rewards program. Company that runs both of these is who I'm talking about), private label credit cards, plus has a targeted marketing, analytics and other big data services company on the side.

      People are idiots though and they willingly shovel valuable data into these companies. As you pointed out, they charge you AND sell your data.

      As a result, I'd strongly suggest buying stock in ADS. People are always going to be fucking stupid. Might as well make some money from their idiocy.

      Interesting that Oracle's bought a foreign credit bureau though, if they can provide better service than TransUnion or Experian those companies are in trouble.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "The Telcos are nothing compared to the Credit bureaus and lenders"

        Because your Credit bureau/lender knows what web pages you've visited, what pictures you've downloaded and when ?

        I think you might be a bit fuzzy on the fact that your ISP knows everything you do on its wires, whereas your Credit bureau only knows what you fill in on their forms - and lender it may be but it has no right to know that you visit every evening at 11 P.M..

        Your telco knows that, and all the rest as well.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: "The Telcos are nothing compared to the Credit bureaus and lenders"

          I don't care the local store knows I get bananas and tomatoes. (Airmiles likewise)

          However, how do you feel if someone checks what books you borrow, what articles you read in the newspaper etc etc.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: "The Telcos are nothing compared to the Credit bureaus and lenders"

          whereas your Credit bureau only knows

          It knows your monthly spend on credit cards as well as all monthly purchases of bigger ticket items for the last decade. It has a sharing agreement with insurance companies and gets info from there. It has an information sharing agreement with your bank, most loyalty programs and god knows who else.

  4. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered

    And without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Re: How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered

      "I am not a number."

      But for a telco, you always were.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered

        "I am not a number."

        Bwah hah hah hah

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: How we are all pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered

      Oh, so you've seen the future too:

  5. James 51 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Brazil is a far more likely outcome than the prisioner.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Brazil is...

      The Prisoner is where we are. Brazil is where we are heading.

  6. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    The Prisoner is currently showing on Freeview 'True Entertainment'...

    ... if you're curious as to what all the fuss is about. Personally I think it is one of the high points of television, along side things like "Edge of Darkness'.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The Prisoner is currently showing on Freeview 'True Entertainment'...

      Edge of Darkness was truly brilliant. A wonderful piece of telly. Must dig the DVD out and watch it again.

      The Prisoner is too hit and miss for my taste. It's got some good bits (or at least so I remember from watching the box-set with a mate years ago), but I've no patience for the self-indulgent bits in between, of which there are far too many.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: The Prisoner is currently showing on Freeview 'True Entertainment'...

        The Prisoner was originally meant to be shorter. The TV company insisted on more episodes. Hence the padding and the few pointless epsiodes.

        Still worth a watch.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey, and dont forget

    There is no way of changing your virtually calculated persona without starting a new online life from scratch, which is increasingly difficult.

    You cant even tell a lot of places someone has died, let alone any other detail, like I am not into orange scratch resisting gloves and don't need an ad for them every time I connect.

    Kafka would have a field day...

  8. pakman

    Thank you for this....

    .... well-written, short, to the point, and non-technical article: I have been looking around for something like it to direct people to when they ask why I don't sign up to Facebook. A lot of people I know wouldn't make it to the end of the first paragraph of much of what has been written about this issue.

    Whether anyone is convinced is another question, but at least it shows that it isn't just me having a paranoid rant

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s too bad most people are too busy trying to survive to care about their privacy. Anyway, perhaps a complementary article with methods to limit this data collection would be good?

    - don’t use a credit card, buy with cash as much as possible

    - use an open-source operating system

    - use XPrivacy on your smartphone (I wish its GUI was simpler)

    - use NoScript (I know I’ve lost 99% of people here…), a cookies cleaner, ad blocker…


  10. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge


    It was neatly phrased by the denizens of the New York underworld so pithily described by Damon Runyon: all life is 6 to 5 against.

  11. HildyJ

    You are number 6

    However you parse the penultimate and ultimate episodes of The Prisoner, he ended up pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered. His life wasn't his own. And neither is yours.

    Short of going full hunter-gatherer, your life will be recorded in some manner. Furthermore, attempting to avoid this recording will raise flags in both the commercial world and the intelligence community.

    Ultimately, giving people access to your information makes life easier. To use another TV show, Upstairs Downstairs, the staff made the life of those upstairs much easier but they also knew all of their secrets. Google knows where my phone goes but, in return, it can tell me where my car is parked and what's the quickest way home, given the current traffic (which it can determine from all the other phones it is tracking).

    That said, I find some services, like Facebook, too intrusive and I refuse to use them. I also block ads, trackers, and third party cookies; use a non-aligned browser (Firefox); and erase cookies, cache, and saved content when I close the browser.

    1. dbtx Bronze badge

      Re: You are number 6

      Six is having problems adjusting to his clone status.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: You are number 6

      This, exactly.

      The fact is, data about me is worth far more to Google than it is to me. I couldn't begin to monetise it the way they do. I wouldn't know where to start. So why should I begrudge it to them, when they give me a whole raft of useful services in return?

      Yes, they know what I'm likely to buy. I still don't see almost any ads (thank you, Adblock), and those I do see are more likely to be of interest to me. Is that a bad thing?

      Yes, they know where I live and where I work. I have no objection to them knowing that, provided I'm reasonably confident it's not available on demand to any old nutjob who asks - and I am reasonably confident of that. Yes, they probably know what I do for a living. They may know who I bank with, who I do business with, what sites I browse, what kinds of porn I enjoy. But I have faith that they're not going to use any of that information improperly, because there's no plausible way of making a profit out of it.

      And sure, governments may be able to access it too. People have this fantasy about the secret police kicking in their door one night and dragging them off for re-education, or something. In the immortal words of Slaartibartfast: "That's perfectly normal paranoia, everyone has that." Face it: you're not that interesting. Not even your porn collection.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "To use another TV show, Upstairs Downstairs, "

    "No man is a hero to his butler" as was noted a long time ago.

    You trade convenience for privacy.

    Easy to do.

    Not so easy to get back.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: "To use another TV show, Upstairs Downstairs, "

      Trickle down economy, anyone?

  13. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    actually yes,

    I did hear that in a slighly lo-fi, slight trippy echo as the lead-in to a classic television show.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Combined with...

    If you have ever seen Derren Brown you'll know how susceptible humans are to manipulation when psychology is correctly applied. The problem is that marketers are using this weaponised psychology all the time these days. Some are better than others, but Apple Fanboisim is not an accident.

    When people sit there irrationally extolling the virtues of one company over the other they are victims.

    Now of course those same techniques are being used to influence elections as well as purchases.

    I honestly cannot think of any way to prevent it though. Not on a personal level.

    My use of computers these days is always accompanied by a huge raft of anti tracking and anonymity techniques. I never use my phone for anything other than an occasional text - I'm not very mobile anyway, but if I do leave the house I often leave the phone or switch it off - never have wifi or data enabled.

    Any online services I do use such as gmail to which I was invited l in late 2001 when they just did good search and gmail was invite only, I try to compartmentalise everything.

    I do have multiple email accounts most on my own domains, but most FB users I know simply stopped using e-mail. Not being on FB these days is like being a hermit!

    I am going to swap my phone for a dumb phone very soon. My eyesight is failing anyway and I hate touch interfaces. I am in my 50's and just too used to a keyboard to use anything else.

    My Software Engineering days are over now, and although I always loved computers, I now really hate the way we use them these days.

    I'm going to take up gardening now & have got back into playing guitar a lot.

    Hopefully someone very smart will come along soon & find a way to stop people being such a bunch of greedy, selfish cnuts.

    Excuse the rambling rant... carry on...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Combined with...

      "Hopefully someone very smart will come along soon & find a way to stop people being such a bunch of greedy, selfish cnuts."

      There is, although it probably won't happen. This time I use Star Trek. Do what the Vulcans did and evolve ourselves to control our irrational thinking. Otherwise, there will always be suckers who will take everyone else with us. Even if YOU don't submit, someone you know will submit YOU.

  15. John 104


    although I always loved computers, I now really hate the way we use them these days.

    Hopefully someone very smart will come along soon & find a way to stop people being such a bunch of greedy, selfish cnuts.

    Have one on me.

    I'm eagerly awaiting the day when the kids are out of the house and I can move away from the metro area I live in and take up some silly retirement job, spending my days in innocence and generally disconnecting from the modern world as much as is practical. Back in my day...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      The problem is that the modern world now has the ability to connect back to you, usually without your knowledge.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want to be a Blank like in Max Headroom...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tout s'explique

    >Since Oracle's acquisitions of AddThis, BlueKai, CrossWise, and Datalogix it has become a major provider of consumer data, in addition to databases.

    El Reg was wondering at the sultry doe eyes and fluttering eyelashes from Oracle to Pai, coming from a company not traditionally in the consumer realm.

    Mystery solved!

  18. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Living and non-living things keep exchanging properties.

    1. Ed_UK

      "Living and non-living things keep exchanging properties."

      Aha! The Third Policeman (Flann O'Brien) re bicycles.

  19. EastFinchleyite

    Lie all the time

    I lie all the time. I keep multiple identities going to confuse matters. Who knows, even this EF identity on El Reg may not be my only persona. I may be arguing with myself sometimes.

    I have several Tesco Club Cards. Looking at one you would think that I am an alcoholic vegetarian while the another is a teetotal meat protein addict. Likewise I use my several credit cards and bank accounts for different types of things.

    I always vote against the existing politician regardless of party. It keeps them honest and politics should not be a career.

    I have no Twatter, Arsebook or any other social media accounts (or maybe I do, does El Reg count?) but that's due to good taste rather than big brother paranoia.

    Overall, I wonder how much extra improved information you get by drilling down to individual level in huge datasets rather than taking a much wider view.

    Anyway I must be off, time for a beer (or is it tea, depends on which hat I have on)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lie all the time

      Aren't you afraid savvy systems can track you by your face, walking patterns, and so on and link your accounts together to figure out you're a liar using multiple personalities, thus earning you a red-flag and likely a tail that will be able to keep track of you no matter what obfuscations you use? Remember, the enemy only has to be lucky ONCE, and DE-anonymization IS a thing.

    2. Uffish

      Re: Lie all the time

      Do you have separate phones and laptops for your different personae?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Lie all the time

        Of course I do

  20. Chris G Silver badge

    And another thing

    If you are a keen commenter on forums such as this, your comments will be grist for the data mills if you don't VPN and anonymise yourselves.

    I don't bother anymore, I want 'them' to know my opinions and I'm not worried about credit ratings or health insurance etc, so they can go stuff themselves, for others YMMV.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: And another thing

      No need to VPN... they can track from comment meta data on timestamps or writing style. At least the voices in my head keep telling me that!

      /sarcasm, in case a dr/employer reads this in some future event!!!

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: And another thing

        Actually, it's NO joke. There are ways to de-anonymize your through behavioural patterns that can pass through the VPN. Or they can just find a way to pwn the endpoint, OUTSIDE any proxy, rendering them moot.

  21. P|H


    I was interested (and horrified) when I tried the Firefox Add-on, Lightbeam, mentioned in the paper linked in the article. Turning off ad blocking and loading a popular website is stunning to say the least.

  22. I Like Heckling

    I'd love to see what my attempts to fudge these invasions of my privacy have on those results... I ad block, cookie block, disable scripts, use a VPN and will even switch browsers for different things... For example, firefox for default things fully guarded and blocked as much as I can... but I use Chrome for a few minor google related things like gmail, youtube and so forth, and I am forced to use IE for Sky Go because they are still using the antiquidated silverlight for their service and no one else supports that outdated and irelevant POS outside of MS.

  23. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Cat Videos

    I can sell you the ultimate privacy cloak. How it works is that all your browsing is carried out steganographically in an endless stream of cat videos.

    Your Credit Rating is guaranteed not to be affected. Your Street Cred will be instantly reset to zero.

    The downside is that if your name is Bruce Schneier your "cat video susceptibility score" will be zero and the powers that be will suspect that you are steganographically browsing using an endless stream of cat videos to cloak your real activity.

    Which takes us to the ending credits where McGoohan is back in his "prison", ready for the next episode...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cat Videos

      Glad my credit rating isn't determined by my 4chan shitposting history.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cat Videos

        Are you SURE about that...?

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