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Do you know all the ways that you’re being tracked through the Internet and your smartphone? Data aggregators, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and more, are tracking everything you do. Are you okay with that?
When we post things online, perform web searches, and write emails, many of us assume that that information is private. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The information that is found through this mining is stored on a database and with the right resources, this information can be pulled together and given to those interested.
Reported in the New York Times article, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” such a thing happened to Stacy Snyder, a 25-year-old student teacher who in 2008 posted a picture of herself drunk on her MySpace page. Because of that photo, the university denied her degree just weeks before her impending graduation. She’s not the only one. Others have lost jobs for posting negative things on Facebook about their jobs. Some companies even require you to login to Facebook before they will hire you. Suddenly, there’s no disconnect between your personal life and your professional life; the Internet is bridging the gap.
Apps Tracking What You Do
But it’s not just the Internet that is tracking what you do. Apps that you put on your phone can track you as well. For example, Pandora reportedly asks you to give it permission to track your location. Many apps ask for this; it makes sense for a map app or for one that helps you find cheap gas near where you’re at. But why would Pandora need to know where you are?
Other apps are doing even worse. Researchers analyzed 10,000 apps for Android cell phones and found that 8 percent of them ask users for access to the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, a unique code given to each cell phone. There is no reason these apps would need this unique identifier.
Is It Possible to Be Private Online?
In an interview with Tom Ashbrook on Boston’s NPR station, Michael Fertik privacy advocate and CEO of Reputation.com, shared the idea that there needs to be a barrier between us and the companies that we interact with.
So if you want to go on Netflix and indicate which movies you like and what you don’t like, it’s anonymous. Instead of connecting these preferences to our real names, it would be connected to something like user10537. So it is possible, but will it happen?
For now, be careful about what you post online and check the privacy settings on all social media websites.