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How Much They Know About You in the Data-Driven World

The Data Deluge of Private Information

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Today, we’re more connected than ever, but at the cost of privacy.

We’ve briefly touched on online privacy and how it’s losing ground in a digitally-driven world, worsened only by “shadow brokers” selling and buying our information. What sounds like a sci-fi concept is reality – companies have a plethora of profiles built out from their customers, all pulled from various sources. 

What kind of profile? Some deeply personal stuff, in fact. If you use a smartphone or card for purchasing anything (and it’s generally unavoidable), you’ll be surprised by what they know. It varies, but companies learn whether you’ve been through a divorce, just bought a dog, what medicine you take, and heck, even your personality traits. Not a comforting thought.

These data profiles – correct or not – are assembled through a variety of means. Most common, for instance, are the tracking methods such as cookies each website has, along with additional trackers designed to study your behavior. From this profile, a digital “you” is created, allowing companies to assess a variety of things about you such as economic stability and what your next major life decision is.

What kinds of things? Here’s a hypothetical profile:

  • The Digital You is a combination of things like age, gender political/religious beliefs, children, status of marriage, renting property or owning property, number of vehicles, purchase frequency, and so on.
  • Whether you’re about to make a major purchase with a house, your economic stability, how often you post on social media, types of media consumed, etc.

This is starting to sound less like a profile and more like something you’d confide with friends, isn’t it? But companies, beholden to few (if any regulations) can scrape together enormous loads of information from a network of practices, profiles, and research. Even you can do this yourself by simply looking at a friend’s profile on Facebook or similar.

Seriously, give it a try, it’s rather frightening what a basic glance can tell you what and how to sell. Hypothetical friend, let’s say:

  • Likes dogs, goes camping on weekends, is twenty two, a male, and currently single.

You learn this because they post all of it on a public profile. At a cursory glance, you as a company might say “well, we can track them and send ads for dog health/food, camping equipment, focus on selling types of alcohol, and probably something for finding a relationship.”

And that’s the info we’re giving up willingly. You know those apps that “modify” your face, for free? Ever stop and consider you’re sending your face to a database with a company that may or may not decide to sell that off?

But we’re only touching on the advertising aspect. Building “digital profiles” allows, in many ways, for companies and businesses to discriminate based on a variety of factors you have no say in. Looking for a job? Running on lots of credit because you don’t have income? This flags you as a “high risk” (even when you’re just looking for stability) and allows businesses to turn you away even before you get an interview. Why? Because they erroneously assume you’re a risky investment who doesn’t pay their bills, even when it’s not the case.

Sounds like a fairly dystopian future, doesn’t it? We’ll keep discussing more with additional articles about digital privacy and what you can do about it.

For more information, contact us at Bytagig.

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