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|Online privacy intrusions you don't know about, but should|
|Written by Praem Rambharak|
|Saturday, 11 August 2012 11:46|
MOST Internet users, especially those who frequent social websites, think they are secure because of a password. Wrong! These days, you need a healthy dose of innocence to think that your personal data/information isn't consistently bought, sold or tracked Online.
Tracking ‘cookies’ are the norm on popular websites, and tech giants have a reputation for mishandling and/or over-collecting users’ personal data. Yep! Your ‘personal’ information which you “think” is privatised can be sold for very big bucks. Amazingly, you -- Yes, you! -- have no idea about this!
But while those concerns receive lots of attention, organizations and authorities may keep an eye on you in other less known ways. Here are five Online privacy invasions that you might not know about.
The authorities might be building a file on you: The idea that some administration agents (worldwide) are reading your email messages and listening to your phone calls sounds like the stuff of conspiracy thinkers, but sounder minds claim that it's possible. My advice is to know and revise everything that you post on the Internet, especially on social sites. Every character, statement, picture, etc you post is recorded, and, to some extent, does not belong to you anymore, but to the wider world.
Electronic books (E-books) know what kind of reader you are: In this digital age, your reading habits are an open book to companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. As The Wall Street Journal reports, E-book sellers can easily track reading data; data such as how long you spend reading, how far you’ve gotten in a book, what text you search for, and what you read next. Not all companies are open about what they collect, but one of Barnes & Noble's E-book executives confirmed to the ‘Journal’ that the bookseller is “in the earliest stages of deep analytics,” and use the data to determine which books to sell on its Nook (B&N’s tablet).
There's no evidence that booksellers use reading data for despicable purposes, such as sharing your habits with marketers or government agencies. The bigger concern at the moment is that authors and publishers may tailor the content they create or publish to be in sync with the reading tastes of the mainstream, which would discourage creative risk-taking, and diminish the variety of available content.
What you can do: If you're uncomfortable having your reading habits collected, your only option is to shut off your device's Internet connection whenever you're about to open an E-book.
Offline retailers may know what you're doing Online: For retailers, learning as much as possible about customers' buying habits doesn't stop when you leave the store. Last February, one major retailing store assigned every shopper a “Guest ID” number when possible. This code links the shopper's Offline purchases to their Online activity, which includes Web history and the shopper's reaction to promotional emails. The store now uses this data to predict what customers want, and figure out how and when best to pitch to them.
Although it isn’t the most evil offence, it can occasionally create some messy situations. It so happened that a very prominent store unintentionally revealed a teenage girl's pregnancy to her father by mailing coupons for baby-related products, based on the retailer's prediction systems. (It's unclear whether the girl's Web history played a role in this case.) Wonder how it turned out! Hope it was for the better for both parties!
What you can do: Installing a Do Not Track add-on for your Web browser will reduce your chances of being followed around the Web by marketers. This prevents many data collection firms, who provide users' browsing habits to retailers, from following you.
Some wireless carriers sell user info for big bucks: The wireless carriers have a knack for extracting more and more money out of their subscribers; or, it turns out, from their subscribers’ data! One of the world’s top wireless and telephone providers reportedly received over US$8 million last year for providing this service, so it works out pretty well for all involved — excluding those users who don't want to be followed, that is.
What you can do: To opt out of targeted marketing from wireless carriers, you must visit their websites.
Debt collectors turn to social sites to stalk debtors: Debt collectors on social sites aren't a new trend, but reports on the phenomenon keep popping up, so this creepy attack on privacy is obviously still news to some people. We've heard horror stories of debt collectors who not only stalk debtors, but harass friends and family as well.
What you can do: Adjust your account privacy settings so strangers can't contact you.
Next time you post something on the Internet, think not once, not twice, but much more than that, especially if it’s something personal. Remember that as long as it reaches the Internet, it’s worldwide!