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Digital Footprint

There is a steady transition under progress when it comes to the kind of relationships we have with the people we interact with. Not all people, I agree, but definitely a good majority of the people. Consider these cases:

If you're a regular visitor to a kirana store, there's a good chance that the owner of the store recognizes you, remembers your preferences, knows the frequency with which you buy certain things, etc. At the same time, you know the owner as a person, about how he treats his customers, whether he gives you a special preference for being a regular customer, etc. There's a relationship there. Now, if you shop online as well, you will notice that the website still recognizes you (there's no longer a good chance, it will definitely recognize you), remembers your preferences accurately, knows the frequency with which you buy certain things, etc. But now, all you know about the store is its web interface and the news about it in the public domain (the news that the store wants you to know about it, most of it at least). There is no longer a relationship. This means that as your online transactions increase, your preferences (not just what you like, but what you don't like and all the possibilities on the continuum between the two as well), and your requirements can be accessed at any time.

If you use a credit card, you will know that it is possible for you to obtain a list of all transactions carried out using that credit card. That is to say that you will leave a digital footprint of your all  your transactions. So the credit card company knows everything that your online store from the first case knows. Well, it knows about all such stores that you visit. In the days when you used only cash for all your transactions, you left no digital footprint. There was a chance that the people you transacted with remembered you and your transaction and the date and time when it occured. But, you would be safe to assume that it would be forgotten by the other party in no time. This means that it is possible for a person to look at your credit card usage details and map out where you traveled, what you purchased and at what time.

Then, there is Facebook. This has the potential to capture everything that about you that is non-transactional in nature, that is, everything that the above two cases fail to capture. Your personal details, the people you interact with the most, the movies and the music and the books and the sports that you like, the places you frequent, are all documented against your name.

Combine all three and you will get a complete history of you as a person. Of course, it is not that easy to combine all that. Not technically. But there is legislation to protect your interests. But in case of criminal investigations, all this data is combined to arrive at a profile of the suspect. But Ipresume it is equally easy for a private investigator to get his hands on this data. So what's the implication?

The implication, I think, is that this will give rise to more model citizens as everyone will be weary of the digital footprint they leave and will cut down on those activities that would harm their social reputation, which is primarily affected by their digital presence today. But, the quality of the relationships people have will fall as everyone will invariably consider how people will receive it when they find out about their actions (not just bad, even good actions) and will act in a way to affect that reception.

What do you think?

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