Inês Matos


On algorithms and digital identities 

keywords: digital footprint, data surveillance, psychological targeting, personalization

When the “Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal” made headlines in 2018, suddenly the term “data surveillance” caught the public’s attention. People realised that they were being profiled according to their social media history. The pages and posts users reacted to, who they befriended and even what they would post online, were being stored and analysed by algorithms.

People suddenly realised that it is possible to use the data collected to determine their psychological profiles and guess aspects of their lives that they most likely never shared online, like their sexual orientation or economic status. This was eventually used to target and segment voters according to their political orientations in the 2016 United States presidential election and in deciding the future of the UK in the European Union (Brexit).

It is now clear that we are living in a world where data science and the field of psychology combined can track down user’s every move. This is possible due to the digital traces left by users, such as geolocation and behavioural data. That data is then used by companies to create personalised advertisements accordingly. As a result, our online experience is being tailored.

This project aims to bring attention to the use of psychological targeting that is done through people’s digital footprints. In Personality-Mining, the user assumes the role of the algorithm in revealing the identities of the different personas. Each persona was developed according to the OCEAN Personality Trait model used to classify users, and their attributes were supported by analysing American citizen’s behavioural data.

The user is faced with a game simulation that seeks to explore exhaustive data collected and analysed by algorithms and to raise awareness to how our privacy is being compromised.