TODAY

TODAY   |  August 01, 2013

How your every move can be tracked digitally

We all know that a vast amount of information about us is collected every day, but just how much? See the digital trail left behind in a day in the life of one NBC News producer. TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie reports and Nick Thompson of NewYorker.com discusses privacy in the digital age.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back now at 7:39 with the question, is privacy dead? we've seen a lot in the news lately about how much the government is able to track the data of americans. could be phone records, e-mails, license plates . after that, all the ways private companies can access your information. so we wondered, how much do we give up about ourselves in just one ordinary day ? we decided to find out. it's happening right now. you're being watched online, on the street, every step recorded, every click tracked.

>> we absolutely live in a surveillance society . there are all these digital trails we leave behind everywhere.

>> from the moment we rise to the time we climb into bed, those digital trails are being collected, analyzed, and in some cases, sold without our knowledge. nbc news reporter robin olkers agreed to let us follow him for one day, a glimpse at his daily routine, a day in the life of his privacy, or lack thereof. robin starts his morning simply enough. like most of us, he surfs the internet and logs onto facebook to interact with friends. and just like that, he's on the digital grid.

>> facebook has tons of information about us. the they often know where we are. they also share a lot of that information with other sites across the web.

>> from there, robin goes for a morning run and uses an app on his smartphone to help monitor his pace and his distance. a digital cloud begins to follow him.

>> your mobile phone is basically a tracking device , taking information about where you are and sending it to lots and lots of companies. there are cameras all over while we're driving. police systems, governments, they're tracking the make and model of the car, they're looking at the license plate .

>> robin 's car is outfitted with a mapping service. his speed and his location is tracked all the way to the train station , where a swipe of his monthly train ticket logs the time of entry.

>> i talked to him an hour ago. he said we'll talk later.

>> when he makes his first phone call , the phone company knows where he is. as we also know from the revelations by the nsa, we also know the government knows where he is and they know the numbers that he called.

>> to get to work at nbc, robin walks through several new york city streets and a huge network of video surveillance cameras take notice. some of that video is beamed out over the internet.

>> you walk through times square , and you're basically on video everywhere.

>> robin officially scans in when he arrives at work, logs into the network, browsing the internet and sending off e-mails. both activities can be traced.

>> the company not only can see it but they probably store that. they probably store it for legal reasons for a long period of time.

>> robin buys his daily cup of coffee at a local starbucks and uses his loyalty card when making the purchase.

>> you use a loyalty card with what you buy, when you buy it. they know you had coffee at 9:15.

>> during the course of his day, security cameras record him throughout the building.

>> the company knows where you are all the time.

>> he makes a couple updates to his social media account. they hold a wealth of personal information .

>> i found pictures of him from college. i found his beer league softball photograph. i found pictures of his kids. they're quite attractive. i found out where he likes to vacation.

>> at home, after a day at work, he settles in for a movie with his kids, and, yes, you guessed it, even his viewing habits can be traced.

>> netflix is storing the information about everything you watch. your cable box knows what channels you watch. it knows when you watch them.

>> 24 hours, countless ways to track our every move. wow, nick thompson is the editor of thenewyorker.com. my takeaway is sit in a chair and read a book if you don't want to be tracked.

>> if you don't want to be tracked. but you also have to remember that all this information you're giving to tech companies, it helps serve you better. use a loyalty card , they know you like coffee at 9:15 in the morning, that's something you might want them to know. they'll give you a discount when you walk by. that's the trade-off. how concerned are you about this, and how much are you benefitting from the company?

>> we're just trying to make you aware. but to be clear, we don't want to make people paranoid. most companies that collect this data, they're careful with it, aren't they?

>> they have every reason to keep that secure. they know, if that gets out, that's terrible for them. also, here's the thing about robin . he has all these ways he's tracked, all these things he didn't know, all these things i learned about him, but has any of this ever caused him harm in his life? it doesn't seem that way. there are very complicated trade-offs here, and it is a little frightening, but there's a lot of good you get from giving up all this stuff.

>> speaking of trade-offs, that's the whole issue with privacy with regard to the government, tracking various things, and now we have a fuller picture of what the government is able to get if it wants to, and in some cases, if it has the right justification -- phone, e-mail, even your license plate .

>> all of that information, and there's a trade-off for the government. th they can protect us more, stop more terror attacks, do things they want to do the more information they have. are we giving up too much? is there hasn't been a great debate in this country either from the personal tech company side or the personal government side, but we are starting to have that, and it's a really good thing.

>> an eye-opening report. thank you