What is the Importance of privacy?
Protecting our online privacy and securing our data is very essential in this day and age. It is almost impossible to completely protect our online activity. A significant amount of protection can be implemented by just using some simple steps. Online privacy has less to do with what we do on the internet, and more to do with who we are. Data has high value on the internet. It is collected, stolen, analyzed and sold. Most of us do not understand the importance of privacy and tend to give out a lot of personal information on the internet.
There are many facets to privacy : what we do, and who we are. Who we are is our personally identifiable information (PII), which is as it sounds – your name, date of birth, address, Social Security number, phone numbers, bank details and more. What we do, are the searches we perform, the websites we visit, the articles we read, even what we buy online. Whenever we download an app, visit a website or use a social media platform, chances are that company is collecting our data. While it may not be PII, these companies still track what we do on the Web and collect that data in order to get a clearer picture of us.
What is targeted advertising?
Before going into protecting our online privacy, let us see how various organisations/people collect data depending on what we do online. As we already know, Google knows a lot about its users. Google collects data from its search engine i.e every thing we search on google’s search engine, is recorded on their servers. If we have location services enabled on our mobile device, Google tracks our location and all the places that we have visited previously. If we have browsing history enabled, Google collects data of all the websites that we have visited.
These are just a few examples of the data collected by Google. Once they collect this data, they link all of this collected data to our Google account and make a profile based on this data. This data is then used to provide us with targeted ads based on the content we have searched online or based on the stores we have visited. Apart from their online services, the smart assistants developed by Google such as Google Home and Google Home mini, collect voice data of all the commands that the users use in order to interact with the service. According to Google, this data is collected to improve their own services and provide the users with much more reliable information.
Another company that is known for collecting data of its users is Facebook. Similar to Google, Facebook also tracks user’s search data, location history and so on. But apart from that, it is also known that Facebook has access to all the browsing history that is stored on its users devices. Facebook uses this collected data and information to provide its customers with targeted ads that are based on what the users have searched for in the past.
This data is then sold to third party organizations such as Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and so on. Amazon uses this data to show its products on your Facebook and Instagram feed. Targeted ads means that the advertisements that you see on your device are specifically tailored to your likes. So, as every person is unique and has different liking, the advertisements that they see will also be different.
All this data is linked to your Facebook profile internally just like what Google and other information gathering organizations do. Millions of websites embed Facebook’s code in their website in order to get their content to even more people. This code can be used to track individuals even when you haven’t logged into Facebook. This information can be about the devices that we use, the location from which we are accessing these websites by getting the location of the IP address and so on. All this data is linked to your IP address and these information gathering organizations make a profile based on the IP address of the people online.
How are you being tracked online?
There are basically 7 factors that are used to track and identify who you are and make a profile of you on the internet. Almost all the websites that you visit today have these 7 tracking codes that enable the owner of the website to collect information about you. So you may be wondering what are the 7 factors?
- IP Address
- MAC Address
- Location Data
- Cookie Information
- DNS Queries
- Device information
Some websites collect this information solely for tracking their performance and analytics. The data such as IP Address and location can determine which part of the globe the visitors are from and the website can target these locations specifically to market the company’s products / services and improve their sales.
Whereas other websites collect this information and make a digital profile of you based on your IP Address. This profile containing all your data is then sold to third party companies for targeted advertising.
Here is another article from Norton that I found to be extremely interesting, which dives deep into “Why your online privacy matters”. Check it out by clicking here. To know more about what this website is about and more about the author, you can visit the about page by clicking here. In the next article we shall discuss in detail on what the above mentioned 7 factors are and how you can hide each of them to limit the amount of information your devices leak out.