Revealing cumulative risks in online personal information: a data narrative study

Emma Nicol, Jo Briggs, Wendy Moncur, Amal Htait, Daniel Carey, Leif Azzopardi, Burkhard Schafer

Research output: Working paperWorking Paper/Preprint

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When pieces from an individual's personal information available online are connected over time and across multiple platforms, this more complete digital trace can give unintended insights into their life and opinions. In a data narrative interview study with 26 currently employed participants, we examined risks and harms to individuals and employers when others joined the dots between their online information. We discuss the themes of visibility and self-disclosure, unintentional information leakage and digital privacy literacies constructed from our analysis. We contribute insights not only into people's difficulties in recalling and conceptualising their digital traces but of subsequently envisioning how their online information may be combined, or (re)identified across their traces and address a current gap in research by showing that awareness is lacking around the potential for personal information to be correlated by and made coherent to/by others, posing risks to individuals, employers, and even the state. We touch on inequalities of privacy, freedom and legitimacy that exist for different groups with regard to what they make (or feel compelled to make) available online and we contribute to current methodological work on the use of sketching to support visual sense making in data narrative interviews. We conclude by discussing the need for interventions that support personal reflection on the potential visibility of combined digital traces to spotlight hidden vulnerabilities, and promote more proactive action about what is shared and not shared online.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationIthaca, N.Y.
Number of pages24
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Apr 2022


  • human computer interaction (HCI)
  • research design
  • cybersecurity
  • personal data
  • digital traces
  • human-centred computing
  • empirical studies in HCI
  • secruity and privacy


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