Data Privacy Part I
You Might Only Have Yourself to Blame
An argument for privacy was first made in 1890 in the Harvard Law Review prompted by a new technology—the instantaneous photograph—making it possible for anyone appearing in public to discover their image on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. This early advancement in publishing drew a legal distinction between public observation and actually being identified without one’s consent.
Leap forward to today where we are not only observed constantly in the digital world, but identified, categorized and marketed to. Shop online for patio furniture and you will be bombarded with targeted ads each time you do a Google search, go on Facebook or even check your email. Note that much of the hubbub in recent data breach scandals don’t necessarily involve information that has been observed about a person, such as shopping habits, but data that specifically identifies a person, including their name and contact information.
The reality is, we are giving our personal information away constantly, and companies are eager to gobble up what is openly out there. How many of us read a company’s extremely lengthy privacy statement written in legalese before forking over our name, email address or more?
I am going to give some pretty scary examples of what information exists about you on the internet, then give you some tips on better protecting your privacy.
Google knows more about you than the government
I’m a huge fan of “Googling it,” but was still shocked to learn the massive amount of data Google stores on individuals. Google stores data via 47 of its apps, which translates into millions of files per person. You can download all of the data Google has accumulated on you. Mine was 5.13Gb, or nearly 3 million files.
This data contains information on where you have traveled, what you searched for online, emails, contacts, videos, photos, products you have purchased and more. If someone gains access to your Google account, they will have a complete life history on you at their fingertips.
Click on this link to see your own data: google.com/takeout
Here are a couple more links to view what Google has on you:
+ Your search history lives on
Just because you deleted your search history on one device doesn’t mean it’s gone. Google stores search history across all your devices. That late-night naughty topic you searched for, then thought you deleted? It is still out there.
Click here see your own data: myactivity.google.com/myactivity
If you have location tracking on (which is necessary to use Google Maps), Google will store your location every time you turn on your phone. Check out the records of where you’ve been from the first day you started using Google on your phone, when you were there and other data here.
Here are a few more of the 47 areas Google tracks and profiles you:
+ Your advertising profile
+ All the apps you use
+ Your YouTube history
Facebook has a massive amount of data on you, too
You can download all the data Facebook has accumulated on you here.
Scared yet? Type your cell phone number into a browser search bar and see if your name and address comes up. Mine did.
This article focused on some of the big sites that collect, store and share data of its users, but be aware that most sites collect some level of data on who is browsing their site, even if you don’t sign up for anything. If you would like to know what you can do to better protect your privacy, stay tuned for Part 2 of this article “Data Privacy Part 2: 10 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Online Information.”