In essence, Google is now using credit card data, to combine with the data it has already collected about us, to learn more about our purchases — those made online and those we purchase without any online connection. The goal, according to Washington Post reporters Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, is to discover whether Google ’s searches and its advertisements have helped people decide what to buy — even when a purchase isn’t made online.
The company continues to collect data and learn more and more about people of all ages. That’s creepy. It feels even more creepy when I consider how we use Gmail in my family to share calendars and when I look at the Google Dashboard that keeps track of and shares with me some of the data Google has collected about us.
If like me you get a kick out of taking Facebook quizzes and sharing your results with friends, it’s time to think a bit more about caution and privacy. Have you ever wondered why these quizzes pop up on your account? Parents, teachers, and students all need to understand that these quizzes have little to do with entertainment and lots to do with getting people to part with personal information.
If you do not know much about online quizzes, and you take them or are tempted by many of them, spend a few minutes reading What You Need to Know About Online Quizzes and Surveysover at the Webroot website and Facebook Quizzes: What Happens to Your Data at the BBC. Essentially, when you take a quiz you freely give out your personal information — and it’s not just the answers you provide, but also the data you allow the quiz creator to access. You also give up a bit more of your personal privacy and may have a small app installed on your Facebook page.
Finding good resources to help young people learn and understand more about data and photo collecting is key to building strong citizens in our 21st Century digital world. We adults can also learn a lot in the process.
Interestingly, no matter how we set privacy settings (stipulating who can see our images), the sites where we post and share continually accumulate information about us — much, but not all, gleaned from the photos themselves. Yes, it’s about digital footprints, but it’s much bigger than that.
According to officials responsible for formulating policy and implementing the directive, future government employment security clearance investigations will include a search of social media content. Applicants will not be asked for passwords and investigators will not log into (or break into) accounts. Investigators will seek to identify the range of an individual’s public content, looking for information that might raise red flags and adversely affect a decision to give a person a security clearance.
While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)
Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.
Just what can our Internet activity tell about us, and who can find the information? What do we unintentionally share? We tell our children not to share specifics kinds of personal information, but much of that information is somewhere — in the digital ether — a result of our various digital footprints, searches, apps settings, and smartphone connections, and waiting to be discovered.
Given the news about the massive amount of data collected by the National Security Agency, NPR reporter Steve Henn set out to find out how much of our data “seeps” out, potentially allowing others to learn all kinds of personal information about a person. Henn used himself as a test subject.
I often hear people of all ages, including children, say, “It doesn’t matter that my digital information is collected because I have nothing to hide.” What bothers me most about this comment is the limited understanding that it demonstrates — a lack of knowledge about how fast the traditional walls of privacy are tumbling down and how little of it has to do with the bad things that people do.
People who make the comment usually know little about what happens to collected digital data, most of it documenting everything we do in our daily digital lives and almost none of it destined to identify wrongdoings or help to find “bad guys.” So much data is now collected about each of us in so many different ways, that almost nothing about us cannot be found out.
Our phones document where we go, our cars move through intersections with mounted cameras that note our license plates, the grocery stores keep track of the foods we prefer, and our Internet searches document the things we want to do, what we want to purchase, and often our worries about how to solve certain problems. Our data even document our medical conditions (despite physicians and insurance companies complying obsessively with HIPPA privacy rules) as we go about checking on symptoms and prescription side effects, or merely try to learn more.