A day in the life of Jen, a 27-year-old trans woman living in London

News & Analysis

Written by Privacy International

08:27: Jen gets on the London Underground to go to work. She uses her contactless debit card to pay for the tube, so Transport for London knows where she is travelling to and from and her bank knows when she takes the tube.

08:36: The public WiFi on the tube means that even when Jen doesn’t connect to it, her every step inside the underground is tracked. The data will eventually be sold to advertisers.

08:58: Jen arrives at work. As with all the lower rank employees, her employer checks on her productivity,  deploying a wide range of tools. Every 10 minutes, her webcam takes a picture of her and a screenshot of her desktop screen. Her employer also monitors how many emails she sends and what websites she visits. An alert is sent to her employer when she switches between applications too frequently: it could mean she is distracted. And when talking to her colleagues over chat services, if she were to say “let’s switch to WhatsApp or Signal” or “let’s meet for coffee” an alert would also be sent, as it would suggest she has something to hide. Her manager on the other hand is not subjected to this kind of monitoring.[1]  

12:32: Time for lunch! Jen goes to Sainsbury’s and uses her loyalty card. All her purchases are used to build up a profile of her. She will receive coupons based on her purchases but her data will also be sold to companies that want access to Sainsbury’s customers’ data

12:48: Before heading back to the office, Jen swings by Boots the Chemists to top up on her hormone treatment. While she’s there she also buys condoms, hair removal wax bands and gel plasters for blisters. She uses her Boots loyalty card when paying for those items.

15:01: Jen gets another coffee break. She checks her social media accounts. She sees an advertisement for hormone therapy treatments.

16:30: Jen receives a message from her best friend Mary over WhatsApp. “Can we meet this evening? Something really bad happened. I need to tell you all about it.” While the content of the message is encrypted, WhatsApp will know that Mary and Jen have exchanged messages and at what time.

17:03: As she leaves the office, Jen takes a quick look at Facebook, which suggests she should like the latest update Mary has posted.

17:31: Hoping for a discreet place to meet, Jen and Mary head to Hyde Park, close to where Jen works. What they don’t know is that the mobile phone company EE is using their phone signals to gather data on their age and gender track their location within the park, even though neither of them are EE customers.

17:44: Mary tells Jen her single-parent benefits have been withdrawn. She had been dating a man over the past couple of weeks and believes a neighbour has reported her to the Department of Work and Pensions. An investigator was sent and took pictures of the man leaving the house. She has been labelled as a benefit fraud.

18:53: Jen and Mary go for drinks at a pub near Hyde Park. Jen pays for the drinks using her credit card.

22:10: As she gets on the bus, Jen checks her social media accounts again. She sees an advertisement for hangover remedies.

[1] In the UK, as of 2016, women only held 21% of senior management positions, so it is statistically likely that Jen’s manager is male. Overall, it means that workplace surveillance of female staff is far more likely to be carried out by a male.