The Digital Persona
and its Application to Data Surveillance

Roger Clarke

Australian National University

Published in The Information Society (March 1994)

© Australian National University, 1992, 1993, 1994


The digital persona is a model of the individual established through the collection, storage and analysis of data about that person. It is a very useful and even necessary concept for developing an understanding of the behaviour of the new, networked world. This paper introduces the notion, traces its origins and provides examples of its application. It is suggested that an understanding of many aspects of network behaviour will be enabled or enhanced by using the notion.

The digital persona is also a potentially threatening, demeaning, and perhaps socially dangerous phenomenon. One area in which its more threatening aspects require consideration is in data surveillance, the monitoring of people through their data. Data surveillance provides an economically efficient means of exercising control over the behaviour of individuals and societies. The manner in which the digital persona contributes to an understanding of particular dataveillance techniques such as computer matching and profiling is discussed, and risks inherent in monitoring of digital personae are outlined.

Keywords: Internet, agent, network behaviour, behaviour monitoring, personality projection, computer matching, profiling, data quality


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