Federico Zannier unleashed an arsenal of digital espionage tools on his own computer: a Chrome extension that documents every web address visited; software that records GPS location; and a custom application that takes a screenshot, a webcam photo, and records the mouse position every time a new tab opens. He is now giving the resulting data to his Kickstarter backers.

Federico Zannier unleashed an arsenal of digital espionage tools on his own computer: a Chrome extension that documents every web address visited; software that records GPS location; and a custom application that takes a screenshot, a webcam photo, and records the mouse position every time a new tab opens. He is now giving the resulting data to his Kickstarter backers.

His webcam took a photo every 30 seconds he was at his computer, a total of 21,000 shots.

This data visualization shows Zannier's keyboard strokes throughout the day.

A program also took 19,920 screenshots of every webpage he visited.

This data visualization shows the sites Zannier visited throughout the day.

Later in the day, those sites start to pile up.

The data also comes with a list of every location Zannier visited.

This data visualization shows where Zannier was each moment of the day.

This data visualization shows where Zannier was each moment of the day.

Zannier notes on his website that though ad revenue in the U.S. totaled $30 billion, he still hasn't made any money from his data.

Kickstarter backers can choose which day of Zannier's data they want.

What If We Thought More Often About Being Tracked Online? Man Stalks Himself To Find Out

After tracking his every online (and physical) move for about two months, NYU grad student Federico Zannier is selling his online data—for a mere $2 per day.

It's no secret that data mining is big business—but what if Internet users could monetize their personal data on their own? New York University grad student Federico Zannier raised the question by unleashing an arsenal of digital espionage tools on his own computer: a Chrome extension that documents every web address visited; software that records GPS location; and a custom application that takes a screenshot, a webcam photo, and records the mouse position every time a new tab opens.

"I’ve data mined myself," he recently announced on a Kickstarter campaign page. "I’ve violated my own privacy. Now I am selling it all."

Zannier got the idea to track his every online action while researching the cookies installed on his browser. "I found out that they’re the way the Internet works, with cookies and with targeted ads, etc., etc.," he tells Fast Company. "The idea of the project was to try to shed light on a subject that was happening every day and I didn’t even pay attention."

And so he began his extreme expression of the quantified self movement. At first, he felt strange at his computer, knowing that every website he visited would be recorded. But soon, he says, he began to forget that it was happening—much like most of us forget about the cookies tracking our own online movements.

The project, his thesis at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunication Program, was at first simply intended to be a way to bring online tracking into his daily conciousness. He planned to publish the data he harvested, along with these awesome data visualizations, because, he says, "I love data visualizations." The idea to sell the data via Kickstarter came later.

A week into the Kickstarter campaign, which had a $100 goal, "A Bite of Me" has already raised about $1,000. Each backer will receive a day’s worth of Zannier's data for every $2 they contribute—but he doesn’t anticipate will actually use the information. Data, Zannier believes, is "more interesting with a group of people." Eventually, he'll release the tools he used to track himself, which could encourage the creation of such a group (he's not the first person who has had this idea).

The project itself changed when it became a Kickstarter campaign. In addition to inviting viewers to think more deeply about how the Internet works and online tracking, it also poses a question: If data is valuable to companies, why shouldn’t the people who create that data be able to sell it?

Though the Kickstarter campaign presents the project as a campaign for this option, Zannier says it's really more about bringing the issue to light.

"[I think other people should try tracking themselves] just to be aware of how the Internet works and think about it," he says.

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7 Comments

  • oswald

    Federico Zannier how would you like to sell my data, our Australian government have spend well over 100 000 dollars trying to stop it being released to the public, with threads of detainment after placing a gag order on me , its not copy righted or classified documents . its my own personal experience , they believe my IP has the potential to undermine there authorities decision makers . I am releasing this from Asia, for legal reasons . to encourage our Australian government to compensate me .
    is any one interested buy one copy only $50 and copy and resell it , if its worth 100 000 dollars to our Australian government , they will pay for your price , try selling it before you buy it from us mention my name Oswald Bruggemans. Ask Australian authority's to buy it of you . or order our CD from PO Box 20 Thung Fon Thailand 41310 WE need more distributers , our Australian government have to eventually buy us out . or it might cost them more . thanks Oswald.

  • Ali

    Wow, totally agree with Mr D there. How cringe inducing is that? If he's ostensibly 'selling' his own personal data for a minimum $2, at least pay for the license for the song!

  • Kushang Khakkar

    Todays online marketers are gaining a lot of additional data for free and selling it for millions to their clients. Such an idea of selling your own data to marketers will not only develop a technology which would help internet users to restrict unwanted advertisements but also earn money through their own activities. The online marketing sector is a bubble which is growing 4 times each year, such an initiative if worked upon by genius think tanks of the technology sector can give a way to a totally new revenue generating industry. Good effort  Frederico Zannier