We are in the midst of an information revolution, and we are only beginning to understand its implications. The past few decades have witnessed a dramatic transformation in the way we shop, bank, and go about our daily business—changes that have resulted in an unprecedented proliferation of records and data. Small details that were once captured in dim memories or fading scraps of paper are now preserved forever in the digital minds of computers, in vast databases with fertile fields of personal data. Our wallets are stuffed with ATM cards, calling cards, frequent shopper cards, and credit cards—all of which can be used to record where we are and what we do. Every day, rivulets of information stream into electric brains to be sifted, sorted, rearranged, and combined in hundreds of different ways. Digital technology enables the preservation of the minutia of our everyday comings and goings, of our likes and dislikes, of who we are and what we own. It is ever more possible to create an electronic collage that covers much of a person's life—a life captured in records, a digital person composed in the collective computer networks of the world.
We are currently confronting the rise of what I refer to as “digital dossiers.” A dossier is a collection of detailed data about an individual. Dossiers are used in European courts to assemble information