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Privacy used to be a huge concern for people before the advent of the Internet. But now, with social media websites springing up left and right, long privacy pages and retailers becoming subtle with privacy collection, it’s very easy to give your privacy up without realising it. This is a very dangerous phenomenon and it’s important to be mindful of where this happens.
1) Loyalty Cards
Every time you head to the till of a supermarket or retailers, you are prompted by the staff assistant if you wish to have a loyalty card, if you don’t own one already.
You can decline, but you’ll often be lured in by savings discounts and freebies. There doesn’t seem to be any catch and it works out for you in the long term, so you generally say yes.
However, what these companies don’t tell you is that they can now track all your future spending in their shops.
This includes both the online and offline world, which helps them build a profile of you and when you like to shop. They can also sell this data off to third parties if they so wish.
2) Public Wi-Fi
That free Internet you get when you head to McDonald’s or quickly use in Morrisons actually does come with a price. Since you’re using companies’ networks, they can easily follow your online footprint and help build a better picture of you for their consumer records.
Public Wi-Fi is an unsecured network and very easy for hackers to break in to, which means criminals can easily access your data too. A good way to solve this issue would be with a VPN, which is an encrypted network that helps secure your presence when online.
3) Social Media Websites
Social media has become such a norm that many people don’t worry about privacy issues anymore. It’s very easy to forget that nothing is ever fully deleted online, especially if you have a public profile.
Public profiles are especially useful for outsider companies, who use these details to build a picture of you and their general target audience. And although social media sites themselves claim to not abuse your data, the terms and conditions on many popular social media websites do admit that they can use your data how they want.
This is normally restricted for advertising, but your data can also be sold to third party users as well. In addition, there is a risk of outsider companies attempting to hack these websites in order to secure user information, such as the Cambridge Analytica.
This particular famous scandal harvested 50+ million Facebook accounts for elections and created targeted ads to make users vote for certain candidates or positions.
4) Smart Devices
Many homes have smart devices now, from walking trackers such as Fitbit to virtual assistants like Alexa. Fitbit collects mountains of data from its users, including their sleeping habits.
This is all used for marketing purposes and sometimes sold too. Alexa has the potential to know even more about your life, depending on how many devices you connect it to. If you collect Alexa to your lighting, radio, television, laptop, etc. – Amazon now has all this data about you. Other smart devices include smart metres, which reads your electricity usage. This again gets sent out to companies to be exploited.
Whether you use your mobile phone, a Satnav or a GPS navigator built into your car – you are being tracked. Some companies would claim it’s for innocent purposes, such as being able to display proper geo-located Snapchat filters or to show your friends where you are.
Other businesses say that it is necessary so that their navigators can direct you accurately to your destination in real time. And although this is all very handy, your data is once again used and abused.
The companies will know where you are at all times – which governments want to able to use – and they can use this information however they like. It is usually used for marketing purposes, but once again can be sold off to third parties. A
gain, these companies can be hacked too, so criminals will easily be able to find out where you are at all times.
Time to get savvy…
When you consider that fraud is rife in the UK at the moment, it’s time to get savvy! Knowing how you are giving up your data so that you can stop doing so is part of the process, but there is more to it than this.
Taking an online MBA in data security is something that more and more people are electing to do, as data security is so multi-layered.
From two-factor authentication and encryption to firewalls and effective password creation, there are so many things you need to learn about in order to protect yourself.
You may think companies are trustworthy, but despite their best intentions, cyber criminals are sophisticated, meaning you need to be extra diligent. Education is a must.
It’s very easy to forget just how vulnerable your privacy is nowadays, especially online. This isn’t your fault, though, companies and governments are purposely trying to keep this knowledge on the down low so that they can exploit it for themselves. But now that you know how companies can take your data without you realising it, you can protect yourself from any further security issues.
*This is a collaborative post