Personally, I find the Internet somewhat scary because of how easy it is for people to access information through the Internet. Because of this, most of my social media accounts are private and I also am not very active on my social media. I do play a few video games, mobile and console. These games collect data for their benefit as well. However, most of the information is only the data from my gameplay and not any of my personal information. Overall, I believe my data identity accurately represents a small part of my whole identity.
Aside from having private social media accounts, there is a bigger problem when you google “Patrick Tse.” The first person who shows up is an actor, producer, screenwriter, and director in Hong Kong cinema. It makes sense that a university student does not show up compared to this Hong Kong celebrity. He takes up almost the first four pages when searched up. To try to narrow down the search, I tried typing my name with my middle name as well. To my surprise, there were still no results near what I was looking for. The Hong Kong celebrity showed up again… Since even typing in my full name did not yield any results I wanted to see how specific the searches had to be for anything about me to show up. After searching my name attached with something that could potentially be related to me, I finally got something! When I searched “patrick tse california,” California is where I am from, my LinkedIn account was the first result that showed up. I realized this was because my LinkedIn account has information I inputted about where I went to high school in California. When I searched up “patrick tse michigan” my LinkedIn is also the first result because it has information about me attending the University of Michigan. All my other social media accounts do not have any information about where I am from, so it would make sense why they did not show up. I attempted to search for my Facebook and Instagram as well. However, for Facebook there were quite a few other Patrick Tses. After scrolling through for a while I still could not find myself. Although searching for my Facebook was unsuccessful, I was able to find my Instagram. I had to search up my username for it to be found. Even though I was able to find it, my account is private.
One thing I realized while searching for information on myself is that social media has become a political piece of technology. In Winner’s, Do Artifacts Have Politics?, he discusses the idea of certain pieces of technology being inherently political. This means that the piece of technology needs some sort of political structure of control to make sure it is not used in the wrong context. However, social media has created its own sort of politics around it. The popularity of people and their appearance on their social media have become extremely important. For example, my LinkedIn showing up in a simple google search matters because employers can see my profile. My LinkedIn has information about me that hopefully represents a side of me that has qualities that are desirable to an employer. My past job experiences, education, etc. are all on my LinkedIn. Given the pretext that LinkedIn is more of a professional social media platform, it would make sense for a user to only put information that would be appropriate in a workplace. For that reason, my LinkedIn account by no means represents all of me, but it is the main thing that shows up when my name is googled. It was a political decision by me to keep my other social media accounts more private and to have my LinkedIn more exposed. If someone were to find me online, their first impression of me hopefully would be someone who is professional and well put together.
To conclude, basing the search solely on Google, the search has to be quite specific to get any sort of meaningful result. This is mostly because I enjoy my privacy from others on the web who I do not know. Although there seems to be a minimal amount of information from a basic google search, there is a lot of my information out there. From making accounts for games to putting my email on a mailing list, I have no idea how many accounts I have created for a variety of things.
Whether it’s a new game on my phone or creating an account to get free shipping, my information is all over the place. The main pieces of data that all these services ask for are name, phone number, and email. Personally, I do not find giving such basic information a problem. I do not think giving my phone number or email does much harm. While they have my contact information, it is my decision to engage or ignore whoever contacts me. However, there are certain things that I have signed up for that require quite sensitive information. For example, the app Webull, a stock trading platform, required that I input my social security number. In this case, I know that Webull is a reliable app because I personally know people who have used this app and have had no problems with it. While I know that the app is most likely reliable, I always feel as if you should still be weary when giving such private information. A couple of years ago, I had an incident where a college I had applied to informed me that they had been hacked and that some of the information about applicants and students had been stolen. Thankfully nothing happened to me personally, but it shows that systems that seem to be safe may not always be safe.
One of the things that intrigues me is the data that is gathered on mobile and video games. In many of the games I play, especially mobile, there are in-app purchases. There are typically two types of currencies: one that is more easily acquired and one that is harder to acquire but money in real life can be used to purchase more of this currency. The one that can be bought with money typically can help you gain materials that will make the game easier or more fun. One of the mobile games that I currently play, Brawlstars, has this same sort of model. Without getting into too much detail about the game itself, the main points about the game that I want to discuss is how currency is acquired and how materials are bought. In the game, there are two currencies: coins and gems. Coins are the more easily attained currency and gems are the currency that can be bought through in-app purchase. One important thing to note is that coins can also be bought in exchange for gems. When buying materials to upgrade your characters, sometimes the exact materials needed to upgrade a character will show up. The catch is that many times it will end up costing a hefty amount to get those materials. Since the materials in the shop change daily, it incentivizes users to spend real money to get those materials. The fact that this situation consistently happens lets me know that the game is clearly monitoring my progress and trying to get me to spend money, which is most likely part of the business model. While this data is only contained within the game and does not have any effect on my life, I find it interesting how the data is used. Just in the way that some sites have targeted ads, some games use the users’ data to gain an advantage on them.
Searching the Internet for myself was quite interesting. I knew from the start that it would not be easy to find myself online due to my social media accounts being private. Because LinkedIn was the only social media platform I could find on myself, I believe my data identity does not well represent me as a whole. My LinkedIn profile is strictly my professional identity. It does not include anything about my hobbies or any of my private information. While my data identity does not fully represent me, that is actually more of a relief to me. If my data identity was a very accurate representation of myself, that would mean that there is a considerable amount of information about me that is public. Since that is not the case, that means that I am keeping my digital footprint to a minimum which is exactly what I want!