14 Mar 2013

Hidden costs? Data Baby delves into the real world

A few weeks into the Channel 4 News Data Baby project, and the first obstacle in navigating the digital world as “Rebecca Taylor” has already emerged.

A credit card being used to buy something online (G)

When Channel 4 News launched the Data Baby project we knew we would have to resolve issues as they came up.

And sure enough, we’ve hit our first hump on the road on the journey to online enlightenment.

Real people buy things, and if Rebecca Taylor, the name of our online identity, is going to participate in the world she’s going to have to make some purchases.

Cash isn’t an option in cyberspace, where credit cards are king. But applying for plastic when you don’t have a physical presence turns out to be a tricky job

With no bank account, the only option for Rebecca is a pre-paid credit card. It can be topped up with cash, thereby avoiding the need to interact with banks.

She has an email address, a mobile phone and other credentials.

But there’s one snag: the card has to be posted somewhere.

Criminals of course can find ways around this, whether it’s using a vacant property, or the communal postboxes in a block of flats. Rebecca, though, is a law-abiding lady, and so she duly gave a surface address.

Despite our best efforts to keep her online, it seems her feet must hit the ground sometime or other.