What size is your digital footprint? Ask BigFoot (video)

25 Sep 2015

Trinity college researchers have developed a new app to help let people know just how much they are revealing about themselves on social media, highlighting your likes, comments and preferences across multiple platforms.

Called BigFoot, it retrieves your social media activity across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, combining it into a visualisation that shows just how marketing companies may be able to work you out.

After logging in to your three accounts, readings on how positive your comments are, or what types of music or films you are into, combine to show a suite of general predictions from your online persona.

Considering the data you input into social media is used to shape how that service markets your profile, it can prove quite revealing to users when they see just how leading their comments or likes can be.

There’s also a questionnaire asking users how much they value their personal information, even suggesting a price with which to sell it to social media companies.

Big Foot - digital footprint

The results of a user’s digital footprint

“We want people to be more aware of what they put online,” Professor Owen Conlan, from the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology at TCD, told Siliconrepublic.com.

“What you put out there can be used in many ways, so the more you can understand that the better.”

The app was created by ADAPT, along with artificial intelligence experts AYLIEN. It will be launched later today (25 September), before going on show across 60 events around Trinity College this evening for the Discover Research Dublin project.

“People are using social media differently across the age groups,” explained Dr Kevin Koidl, who worked on the app.

“Anonymity is becoming key amongst younger users. In the US, for example, the younger generation are sharing content across AirDrop, because it provides them with the security they want.

“They are shying away from sharing revealing images, for example, over the more mainstream services. Whereas people of an older generation might think posting an image on Facebook is just for their friends, not realising the world can see it.”

Digital footprint

Professor Owen Conlan and Dr Kevin Koidl of the ADAPT research centre for digital content technologies

We had a chance to mess around with it during the week and, although it wasn’t quite the finished project yet, it looks like there could be some surprises in how you rank.

Conlan was our guinea pig for the project, scoring a ‘B’ overall, with a digital footprint the size of an orangutan.

‘A’ would have bagged him a sasquatch, but as the Facebook element was on the blink he was saved from that particular gong.

There is more than BigFoot on show later, though. From around 4pm today attendees can do things like immerse themselves in 3D visualisations of the brain, control computers with nothing but their minds, and create colourful visualisations of the music they play with magnetised instruments.

The Robotics and Cybernetics Showcase will display how engineers are creating robots to help the elderly and those living with disabilities, while the Dublin Language Garden will explain how linguistics evolve and teach people to speak a language like a local in a mere five minutes.

Here is the full programme of events.

What size is your digital footprint?

Perhaps staged image via Shutterstock

Data Science Week, with special coverage of this rapidly growing field, will take place on Siliconrepublic.com from 28 September to 2 October 2015. Get updates by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic and the hashtag #DataScienceWeek on Twitter.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic