The world today is much different than it was in the 1960s when your privacy was relatively easy to maintain. You could, quite literally, live without giving your address to any third party other than your government and your bank.
Today we are living in a data-driven society where almost everything about you, including things that you might not even tell your own parents, is somewhere out there in a database with or without your knowledge. The problem we face right now is that we do not have a clear line drawn on what “enough” data about an individual is. And on the other hand, data mining has its uses for everyone.
Why Companies Collect Data
Data collection is a practice that companies have been using since before they could ever store their media digitally. Cataloging data about your customers in a customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform helps you better understand them, and as a result, also understand what they need. As a company knows more about you, it can offer you things that are more relevant to your particular lifestyle, your passions, and your hobbies. It may sound a bit creepy, but the corporate world has been doing this since long before we’ve had computers. It’s one of the many ways in which they compete for your dollar.
In today’s market, the Internet provides ways for companies like Facebook to collect data about you in order to make its advertising more relevant. The problem with this is, obviously, that people are afraid of their data ending up in the hands of those who could actually cause them harm. In a very expansive amount of cases, the government has a vested interest in gaining access to the data that various companies have. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has repeatedly been caught collecting data on foreign citizens and Americans (as is the case with leaked information from PRISM).
Security Risks of Data Collection
There are many other threats to the integrity of your privacy that have nothing to do with governments. People, government entities, and private companies are notoriously bad at keeping track of their data and securing it. Case in point: both the IRS and a major health insurance provider were hacked in 2015, providing the hackers with a significant amount of private data from 78 million people. Data collection could go wrong when the ones collecting your data are compromised, and the information provided goes into the hands of those who would try to profit from it.
What to Do
Taking into consideration the fact that one of the biggest risks to people who use the services of both the public and private sector is the possibility of a data breach, and the fact that data breaches have been increasing consistently both in frequency and intensity, now would be a good time to begin pressuring the companies we use to either catalog less of our data or at least improve their security practices. As for the rest of us who are regular users of online services, we should educate ourselves and be as prudent as possible with the data we provide to any entity on the Internet. The less you share, the safer you are from hackers.
What do you think? Do you have any extra advice? Share it with us in a comment!