The personalized documentary series “Do Not Track” explores the inner-workings and transparency of the modern Web economy.
You are being tracked.
Right now, websites are following your online moves, learning your habits and tailoring the ads and information you see to fit the mold they’ve created of you. They know what kind of computer you’re on, where you shop and how the weather is outside your door.
We live in a world in which our privacy is constantly being violated — and we’re basically asking for it.
That’s the lesson you learn when you dive into “Do Not Track,” an interactive online documentary series that debuted at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. “Do Not Track” pulls back the digital curtain on how your online life is monitored, manipulated and monetized.
Filmmaker and web developer Brett Gaylor wants you — yes, you specifically — to appreciate how your data is being tracked on the internet. His interactive, customizable NFB documentary Do Not Track, doesn’t just tell you but expressly shows you just how sophisticated online surveillance has become.
How do you make mass surveillance relevant to the average person? Well, you could make the issue all about dick pics, like John Oliver did last week. Do Not Track, a new documentary web series premiering online today, is taking a less carnal approach: the site scoops up your data and uses it to give every episode a terrifyingly personal touch.
Do Not Track aims to demystify the opaque world of data collection. Websites often use a number—sometimes dozens—of third party trackers on every page to pilfer your data and either use it for advertising purposes or sell it to the people who can. Most of the time, you’re probably blissfully unaware of this. And even if you knew, would you change how you use the web?
Interactive media can still sometimes feel like a Choose Your Own Adventure book: fun and novel, but also kind of contrived and limited. But Do Not Track, a docu-series about data privacy that launched Tuesday, uses audience participation in a great way. As the series goes through different aspects of online data collection, it uses the examples of your choice to show how much data sharing is going on behind the scenes online, and how easy it is to develop profiles about Web users.
Not all stories have happy endings. Brett Gaylor, a documentary filmmaker who calls himself an activist for a free and open Internet, developed the web series “Do Not Track” as a cautionary tale about the web as a menacing, all-seeing eye.
“Over the past couple of years, aspects of the Internet began to bug me,” he said. “I became less of a web evangelist and am now more critical of the amount of personal information being mined.”
Last week, I added a program to my Web browser that does nothing but eat cookies – the little tracking files placed on my computer as I surf the Web. The program tells me whose cookies it’s wiping out as I go from one site to another, and most of them are from websites I’ve never visited. That’s because they’re placed by third parties, who have contracted with the websites I do visit to monitor my activity and Web habits. That data is being added to any number of personal profiles of me, which I may neither see nor delete.