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Movie thrillers often include a scene where a computer genius puts together a detailed account of a person’s life by collecting and collating data from different sources. Years ago, this idea was more science fiction than fact. Increasingly, our lives are being recorded directly over the Internet through channels like email, social media, Web browsing and online transactions, and indirectly via point-of-sale terminals, mobile GPS and so on. Thus, the size and detail of our data shadows have grown larger.
Data privacy laws exist, and more are being created to prevent the abuse of an individual’s data shadow. For example, this can occur when an employer fires an employee based on his or her Facebook friends or photos. Unfortunately, however, privacy legislation generally lags behind an organization's ability to collect, compile and analyze data.