My Data Identity Through Google
After searching up my full name on Google, I felt my identity online was a very surface level perception of who I am. When beginning my search, the first few results that popped up were some of my social media accounts: LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Following this were many many links to Pinterest boards that I had pinned. Some of these pictures were of outfits, paintings, and tattoo ideas. As I shuffled through every Pinterest link that popped up I would ask myself, does this encompass my true identity? I clicked on the “Images” icon on Google, and only saw my high school graduation picture to identify who I was. The rest were images of other Shriyas and again, a few Pinterest pictures that I had liked. When I clicked on the “News” icon on Google, the only thing that popped up was an article that talked about my high school graduation.
348 results and I felt my identity was incomplete. If someone were to search me up, I would say the only way to get a hold of information that may reflect a glimpse of my personality and true identity would be through social media. However, the information within these platforms is controlled by me. In the sense, I only put out things I am okay with others seeing. And because of this, it does not really reflect my entire identity. I feel there are advantages and disadvantages to the information I found about myself. While my data identity does not fully encompass my life and personality, I am happy that I have some privacy from the world. Online, it might not say enough about me, but at least it is somewhat protected from the various unethical ways information can be used in technology.
Is my Data Identity stable?
The stability of my data identity can be seen through what social media says about me and if it is up-to-date on who I am today. It is also important to note if the information on me online is old or misleading. Googling my name has led me to believe that my data online is pretty stable regarding the authenticity of the information. The social media accounts you see within the search are all up-to-date since I have been active and posting on them frequently. It is good to note that the stability of my data identity, and also others, can change over time depending on what is or is not shared with the world. Data online is unpredictable and can change in any given moment. For this reason identities online may not be as stable we seem.
ShriyaBajagur vs Shriya Bajagur
I was curious to figure out why some of my social media accounts did not pop up when I searched up “Shriya Bajagur” on Google. Because of this, I thought of refining my search a little and typing out “ShriyaBajagur” to see if anything different popped up. By doing this, only 31 results came up and there was a slight difference. Here, I saw my Twitter and Vsco account, and more Pinterest boards that I had looked at. I also found a few more pictures of myself and some of my friends too. With that being said, I felt my search from “Shriya Bajagur” was more lengthy and truer to my identity since it included more information.
Since my full name is unique, it wasn’t difficult for me to distinguish myself from other individuals named Shriya. Something I found interesting was that one of my searches on Google, directed me to a site that had information about the village my Great Grandfather grew up in. This village has the same name as my last name, Bajagur. While I already knew about this place and have also visited it, it was nice to read more about such a small village online. It made me realize how vast the information online can be. Even a tiny village amongst thousands of other villages within India can be recognized online. The site had information about where the village was located, how big the land is, the type of education that is accessible, and agriculture. It even provided an image of Hindu deity from a famous temple that was associated with this and 11 other villages.
It is a little scary knowing there are sites online that aggregate all kinds of information about you. A Data Broker collects information about an individual from various sources in order to analyze, perform background checks, and sell the information to other companies. Learning about this was concerning, knowing that your information was being transferred all throughout the internet. When I searched up my name in Google, a few of these types of websites were shown. One of them was a website called fastpeoplesearch. Here there was information about my current home address and what month and year my family and I moved here. It also had down what my age was and the year and month I was born, and who my parents are. It even indicated that I was alive and not currently married.
As said in Critical Questions for Big Data, by Danah Boyd and Kate Crawford, “Big Data enables the practice of apophenia: seeing patterns where none actually exist, simply because enormous quantities of data can offer connec-tions that radiate in all directions” (668 Boyd, D., & Crawford, K). My online data identity exemplifies this notion of apophenia within the space of technology and big data. I found many patterns within my search that I felt did not really exist in my real life. For example, the various pinterest board links that show up when I searched my name can form a pattern of what I like. Another pattern I saw was an association with various people that have similar names (ex. Shreya), mainly from the same state in India that I am from. However, this is not true at all since the images that show up are not even close to defining my entire identity.
Boyd and Crawford also mention that “Interpretation is at the center of data analysis” 668 Boyd, D., & Crawford, K). It is very easy to misinterpret the information that is visible online. There may be a lot of data out there, however it is crucial to understanding it correctly. Otherwise, the data is useless. As mentioned before, my data identity is surface level. Every social media account, pinterest board, and other links, do not tell the entire story. Our data identity is not always reliable and in order to really get to know someone, we must seek beyond what is said on the internet.
Boyd, D., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical Questions for Big Data: Provocations for a Cultural, Technological, and Scholarly Phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 662-679.