6.15am: Wake up.

You wake and follow the sound of your alarm to its source. Without thinking, you go a step further, unplugging and opening your phone and idly browsing Twitter for a minute or so, taking nothing much in. You read somewhere that it was the blue light of the screen keeping you awake at night, and you’ve come to the view that the corollary must also be true — that it gives you a caffeine jolt in the morning. You’ve never checked on this. At the very least, the placebo effect has meant that it’s become your routine.

6.30am. Go for a run.

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You drag yourself through the biting cold to a park near your house and circle it as many times as you can manage. Your check the Fitness app on your phone afterwards, and though you wouldn’t admit it, you get a little jolt of wellbeing when a badge, gleaming in lime and pineapple tones and depicting a sweet, doe-eyed giraffe pops up. You are sunnily informed that since installing this app, you’ve negotiated the equivalent of the Serengeti desert.

In that time the app has logged the times you slept, your location, height, weight, gender, and age, shared it with Facebook, then sold it, “de-indentified”, to a range of private health insurers.

You feel that the exercise is beginning to take effect. Figuring, “screw it, everyone does it” you take as flattering a photo as you can muster. You then add an unconvincingly self-deprecating caption and share it to Facebook and Instagram.

7.45am. Get on the train.  

The touch on and off information for your public transport smart card goes to the public transport department. You registered it and paid for it by credit card, and connected to that information is a down-to-the-second list of everywhere you’ve touched on and off, with details about the exact time, location and route for at least the last three years. Even if your name were not attached, you could easily be identified based on this information.

It’s not clear, even to the experts, where this information goes, but Victoria’s Data Sharing Act (2017) promotes cross-government data sharing, to the extent of imposing penalties under some circumstances for public servants who refuse to share data entrusted to their care. As you pass through the crowded station on your way to your train, your face is recorded in high definition by the train station cameras.

8.15am: Walk to work.

You walk from your train station to work. You phone does several wi-fi scans, which keeps Facebook notified of your location, despite the fact that you’ve not opened the app since you took that selfie.

8.30am: Sit down.

Your employer has facial recognition cameras set up around your office, which it uses to keep an eye on your mood. At work every website you visit and every phrase you search for is logged, both by Google and Facebook.

12.30pm: Buy lunch.

You have to buy groceries in your lunch break, so you scan your loyalty card. The supermarket chain you visit is building up a detailed profile about you and selling it to other businesses.

2:00pm: Take a meeting.

You turn your phone to Airplane mode during a meeting so that no calls will come through. Google and Facebook continues to track your location.

6:00pm: Go to the doctor.

You have a doctor’s appointment to check in on an ongoing mental health issue. For whatever reason, it’s worse at the moment, and a quiet, needling feeling, one you’d hoped had passed for good, has returned.

Without your consent, the data kept in your My Health Record can be shared across several government departments, the research sector, and private enterprises that sell software to GP clinics. By default, somewhere around 1 million people are able to access your information. If you were to try to find out who had, you wouldn’t be able to.

Though you vaguely heard about it being controversial at the time, you just never got around to opting out. You do remember, a while back, you received a letter from the Department of Human Services inviting you to take part in a study for people who were taking the specific antidepressant you were on. You don’t know how they knew, just that your doctor was the only person you had talked to about it. You decide not to mention the darker extremes of your thoughts, not this time.

7:00pm: Get in an Uber.

You’ve had a long day and can’t face the thought of a train. You decide to grab an Uber home. The Uber app has constant access to your calendar and address book. Your location at any point in time, even when the app isn’t open, is also collected and sent back to Uber.

8:00pm: Watch some telly.

You watch Succession on Foxtel. This is also logged and used to target you with more advertising and marketing. Foxtel has logged data on every click of your remote since 2014.

10:00pm: Fall asleep.

The last thing you see as you drift off to sleep is the small red light on your phone as it charges on your bedside table.  A little sensor in your phone, called Sonar, detects the changes in your breathing, and your fitness app notes that you’ve fallen asleep.

This piece is based on the work of and/or interviews with Dr. Vanessa Teague, David Vaile, Katharine Kemp, Bruce Baer Arnold, Wendy Bonython, Ben Grubb, Asher Wolf and Bernard Keane.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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