With the arrival of the digital revolution and the advent of technologies such as the Internet of Things and machine learning, data has become one of the most valuable commodities in the modern world. Indeed, it’s even referred to as the “new oil” in certain circles due to the potential worth of the market for it now and in the future.
How is your data being collected?
The sheer frequency with which this occurs means that many people simply click “Yes” without paying attention today. This happens on pretty much every corner of the internet, from search engines to social media platforms to retail sites. Every time you do so, the company plants cookies which track your behavior and store that information, building up a virtual profile of you, your personality and your online movements.
What is done with this information?
Big tech companies often explain away this invasive practice by claiming it’s all geared towards improving user experience. Often, the data is sold to third party companies, who can then tailor their marketing campaigns to reach customers more likely to be receptive to their goods and services. On the surface of things, this might seem like a harmless and even beneficial state of affairs since you’ll see ads more relevant to you and your interests.
However, there is a sinister side to data brokerage. Not all those who buy your personal information have your best interests in mind. Since the market is open to anyone with enough cash to buy the data, malicious hackers and cyber criminals can get their hands on your sensitive information. They can then leverage the data to commit identity theft, financial fraud or blackmail, among other damaging crimes.
What can be done?
The only sure-fire way to ensure your data is not harvested and sold to the highest bidder is to move offline completely. Of course, this simply isn’t an option for most people, so some element of risk is involved when interacting and transacting online. Having said that, there are steps you can take to keep your data as safe as possible.
For example, you can use a VPN to mask your IP address, carefully select the apps you install on your mobile device, optimize your social media and browser settings. Opting out of data brokers is perhaps one of the most effective measures to decrease your digital footprint.