When I discuss digital privacy with adults it’s not uncommon for them to tell me that they are far less concerned about the subject than I am. Frequently I get responses similar to the those below:
- We just aren’t as worried about privacy as you are.
- I lead a law-abiding life, follow rules, and have nothing to hide. Who cares.
But the fact is, the world is interested in each of us, and the way they find out about us is through tracking what we do and say on the web, on our phones, through every single thing we purchase, and every place we go (even if we have location mostly turned off). Even our car computers collect and share information on us. It’s been this way for a long time. I even wrote a post, I’ve Got Nothing to Hide So I’m Not Worried, way back in 2013.
Two eye-opening New York Times articles, You’re Tracked Everywhere You Go Online. Use This Guide to Fight Back by Tim Herrera and I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too by Kashmir Hill describe in intricate detail just how much detailed information is amassed about each of us.
So intricate is the information, in fact, that when Hill ordered a personal file from Sift, a company that rates credit-worthiness and generates personal scores, it was 400 pages long. Included were a wide range of personal messages, information about restaurant and takeout orders, specifics about logging in and out of cell phone apps, and even what, and even what device was used for what activity — 400 pages.
Hill explains how to get your personal file from Sift. That, however, is only one company. Other identified companies are Zeta Global, Retail Equation, Riskified, and Kustomer.
In his article Tim Herrera, who was inspired by what Hill discovered, explains how just about every company that we use aggregates our data and shares it — companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Target, our banks, and others. He includes helpful links that a reader can use to contact the companies and request that they stop sharing personal information.
Most of us will continue to make purchases online, use apps, and enjoy our devices. But it behooves all of us to do it with a bit more thought and care.