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What are they doing with your data?

We’ve all heard about big data. But what does it really mean?

In Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, Bruce Schneier covers all of this.

What it boils down to is the more we live a world with technology everywhere, the more data and meta data there is to be collected. It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 30 billion connected devices out there. This is a natural side effect of having computer integrate with our lives and there is nothing wrong with it. The question comes in when you start wondering what companies do with this data…..

If you had someone follow you around in a store and write down everything you look at and search for, that would be a little creepy. But with the internet that’s exactly what companies do. We just don’t see it… And it doesn’t stop at shopping. The data from your google searches, your Facebook likes and the YouTube videos you have watched is all out there. And by using this data companies can build a pretty accurate picture of who you are, what you like, what your sexual orientation is and lots of other things.

The book includes a funny anecdote about a man who’d complained to a Target store that had sent baby-related coupons to his teenage daughter, only to find out later that Target was right.

This leads to an interesting problem, data we’re willing to share can imply conclusions that we don’t want to share.

Imagine building a picture of a person’s health without every physically seeing them. Credit card records and loyalty point cards reveal what food they buy, and what restaurants they go to. Your phone can be used to see how often you actually go to the gym to use that gym membership you have and your google searches can reveal any possibly underlying medical problems that you have searched for.

This data is really valuable and companies are willing to pay lots of money for it. You need to be aware that this data is being shared…..

In this short video, I cover a few of the other key points that made me think:

If all of this has made you a little paranoid, I’m glad. We need to be aware of these things and realise what the implications can be.

If you want some easy actionable steps, just do the following two things:

  1. Get a good VPN service, that preferably doesn’t operate out of the US and doesn’t have any history of sharing data.
  2. Install an add on in you browser that protects your privacy. I use Disconnect for Chrome.

I hope you found this useful.

The point of this article is not to make you paranoid so you throw away your phone. You should however know that this is happening. This helps you to make more informed decisions and live a better life.