Your Personal Privacy: How Safe Are You?
How confident are you that your personal data is secure? Should you share HUKD, BW, or Facebook/Twitter with your boss and colleagues? How do you even really know that they don't already read your stream every day, like the boss of 16 year old Kimberley Swann who fired her for describing her job as 'boring' on Facebook?
Issues regarding our alter-egos and identities, both online and offline, have vexed those involved in the ethics and arguments behind personal data sharing for many years. Just the other week, The Guardian revealed that more than 40 major British companies face legal action for allegedly buying secret personal data about thousands of workers they wanted to check out before employing them. This data includes their secret lives as trade union activitists, employment history, and personal relationships, compiled into a secret database by a private investigator. Comments on individuals include terms such as "communist party", "do not touch", "Irish ex-army bad egg" and "lazy and a trouble-stirrer". All this obviously breaks data protection laws by unfairly blacklisting workers, but how does this affect you as an online consumer?
When compared to any other country including the US, the British government actually have some of the most comprehensive and elaborate laws around. But as clever consumers, it would not hurt for us to be aware of the dangers and what you can do about it, in the event of mishandling. Ultimately, the individual consumer has to understand the basics of how our information is handled before engaging with anything online. Telemarketing, and to a lesser extent junk mail, take public info that by necessity has to be public (telephone numbers and addresses, for example), then exploits that info to contact you without your permission.
Another problems lies within how data and information are kept and stored. Even smart and saavy consumers leave an online data trail, like an elephant running through the jungle. It's easy to tell where they've been - they leave a trail of destruction (so not the best analogy). The point is, all it takes is for someone to know how to 'read it' to find out more information about you, or a new website like Spokeo, a service that spies into over 40 social networks and pulls out your personal photos, details... even what radio channels you may be listening to right now. Where is all this going to lead?
For now, we can only more be vigilant. But you can also learn to reduce that data trail, cloak it, or at least disguise it and truly send your opponents on a wild goose chase. 3 very basic tips to minimize your online trail can be implemented today include:
1.Create several email accounts, and never use your primary email address on sites you do not trust, especially FREEBIES.
2.Use your opt-out cookie This allows internet users to opt out of online tracking by member companies.
3.Stop entering your personal information on websites with no clear privacy agreements.