Privacy #2: Personal information traded for profit to your disadvantage (it’s worse than you might think)

in #technology4 years ago

Personal information traded for profit to your disadvantage


In a previous article I stated that the real value of data is not the information you type in your profile, but what happens when the company combines multiple data sources.

Sometimes these data sources stem from your interaction with for example a free app. So has Niantic Inc. from the app Pokémon Go, your profile and all the information it gathers while you play. For example, GPS data, Wi-Fi networks you encounter, how long you play and how often.

At the same time, you are not the only person providing data. Your information is compared to the data of all the other people using the app. Pokémon Go still has 65 million active users every month. By analysing data from millions of users, companies can predict what you’re going to do next.

This is not limited to spending patterns based on current buying behaviour. Companies predict changes in spending caused by life events like a move, marriage or pregnancy.

This sounds complex, but let me give an example.

Targeted advertising

Target started sending prenatal brochures to a family in America when they suspected the daughter might be pregnant. The father was furious, but the daughter later confessed according to a New York Times article. Mr Andrew Pole, Senior Manager at Target, is cited in the article explaining how Target identified 25 products that together indicate the likelihood of a pregnancy and the probable due date.

Target is not the only company analysing us in detail. We are all part of the largest psychological test in the history of man kind, as stated in an edition of VPRO Tegenlicht. Every online action, like, post or search is tracked and recorded. Additionally, a lot of company websites conduct split testing to identify factors that increase sales.

The chances are that every time you go online you are part of a psychological experiment without noticing it, giving permission or knowing what your data will be used for and by whom.

That Big Data enables psychological testing, is usually overlooked by people. Big Data is not just about analysing clicks; it actually predicts life events that impact your spending pattern like a pregnancy. This allows companies to offer the right products at the right time.

Big Data is extremely effective in predicting human behaviour because of the sheer size of data points. The data of everyone on the Internet can be used to make a model. More data means better predictions and increased sales.

Sending a brochure is a relative innocent example of what companies can do with predictive analysis. Unless you haven’t shared the happy news with your spouse yet, are a minor or suffered sexual assault that caused the pregnancy. Then it’s extremely hurtful to receive baby flyers and coupons.

It is even more destructive when the company does not use data for other, more impactful decisions like who to offer health care coverage to (and who not).

Especially in the USA where digital privacy laws are not as strict as in Europe, you can buy lists of people according to race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It is even possible to buy a list of rape sufferers according to Executive Director Ms Pam Dixon from World Privacy Forum in an edition of ZEMBLA. The price for a name of a rape sufferer? 7.9 cents on the dollar according to Ms Dixon.

Who sells this kind of information for crying out loud?!

So-called data brokers buy and sell lists of personal information from all over the world. That means that any company that has members or gathers email addresses can monetize this kind of data by selling it to a data broker.

Essentially any company with a website could also be in the business of selling data. Many privacy policies include the right to gather, sell or share some information with third parties.

Eventually, data sales become more profitable than other products or services of the company. You might think a company mainly sells dog food, real estate or protein bars, but the main source of revenue can actually come from aggregating, combining and selling user data.

So as developments in big data allow for more accurate predictions, personal information becomes more valuable. It won’t be long before ordinary small and medium companies recognize this potential and you are recorded and tested everywhere you go.

Photo by Tom Sodoge on Unsplash found through the free stock tips by @lakov

Feel free to suggest topics for articles in the comments. Thanks to @m1r0 and @ocd who requested this article!


I love your article! sehr schön geschrieben :)

Een Nedersteemer, dus een volgje. Ken je trouwens de lions legion al? Je bent van harte welkom. Discord club vol Nederlandstaligen, heel geselligk ;)

People always think they are unique in their behaviour, but most behaviour is predictable when you gather information and behaviour patterns from millions of people around the world.

That's also why it's always a bogus argument when people are telling : I have nothing to hide. This information is useless.

To you it might seem useless but to others it can be of great value and especially when combined with other information. It's also what feeds most of the Social Engineering.

Great article!

You're spot on @thetimminator! We're super predictable! Following you now.

Great article. You get my help by my 💯 % upvote and my resteem. Let's stay in contact and may schedule a beer with my next berlin visit.

Thanks @detlev! I'm following you also. Let me know when you're in Berlin. I'm in Bangkok at the moment, but planning to be back late November.

Anrike, check out this documentary if you haven't already seen it.

In today's world the most common form of power is having spy data on somebody else. And it's a very strange form of power, it's different than earlier historical forms of power. Power has usually meant the threat of violence, what happens when you say, well "ultimately if you don't do this, I'll hurt you". And it might be indirect, it might be complex, but that's how it works.

The new kind of power is different, it's a very gradual form of power. Somebody saying "hey, you can do what you want, but I am micro-managing options so very gradually I'm steering you to what I want; I'm very gradually influencing the financial decisions you make, the commercial decisions you make, the education decisions you make, all kinds of things, so very gradually I'm changing the world so I make myself richer and more powerful. So, it's a new kind of power that's very sneaky and gradual.

But, the thing about gradual power is it compounds, like compound interest. If somebody can use spy data about you to just change your decisions, to give me .1% advantage every year, it accumulates until suddenly I'm very rich and you're very poor. So, that's the new kind of power. It's very subtle and that's what it makes it so important that we understand it and why it's so important that we change it.

Yeah! That's the same documentary I refer to in my post, but in English. Thanks for sharing!!

Great Article. Follow me back

Thanks and done!

the simplest example: when you enter your Facebook profile, the company will immediately ask questions ( to complete you social profile), like survey but in a smart way, the company collect huge amount of free data about their customers & sell to the biggest production company's in order t define people needs & create successful product base on measure got it from analysing those data.

Yes, they want to know more about you and try to keep you on the app as long as possible. Luckily, there are some things we can do to contain this a little bit. More about that soon.

don't keep us waiting to see your suggestions in order to protect our info from that kind of légal data ripe.

Thanks for the encouragement @anahowa210. As soon as I have some time, I'll write it!

Good article.... Just upvoted @anrikevisser...

Thanks @supriya1993, I see you studied Computer Application. Was Big Data part of the studies?

It's modern life indeed. We must get used to it, and to follow the development of technology and the way of advertising..

Hi @razack-pulo, time and development won't stand still indeed. But I do think we should think about what's happening. We don't have to blindly accept data brokers selling lists of rape sufferers for example. That's just inhumane.

Great article

Thank you so much @belalh!

Congratulations! This post has been upvoted from the communal account, @minnowsupport, by anrike from the Minnow Support Project. It's a witness project run by aggroed, ausbitbank, teamsteem, theprophet0, and someguy123. The goal is to help Steemit grow by supporting Minnows and creating a social network. Please find us in the Peace, Abundance, and Liberty Network (PALnet) Discord Channel. It's a completely public and open space to all members of the Steemit community who voluntarily choose to be there.

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nice dear great shareing :)

Thanks for the support, follow back :)

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Great post @anrikevisser Followed and upvoted.

Thank you, following you too!

This is such an informative post @anrikevisser . Thanks so much for sharing this with us. The problem is that the consumer is completely oblivious as to the worth of their digital fingerprint and thus will sign up to anything...login to any "Free Wi-Fi" Service etc. and they don't know the value behind data mining taking place....

Agreed! That's why I write about it :) Thanks for the support @philip.willemse

nice post upvoted
Your vote is important to us. For which we thank you. And keep voting @piyushkansal

This is one of those things I vaguely worry about in the back of my mind, but then I decide there's nothing I can do about it. I wonder what they are saying about me, thinking about me?

I get some very strange ads on Youtube and online that follow me and I have no interest in them. I wonder what sort of profile they used to decide those were the ads they would show me.

Yeah, they are not always spot on! I check the other day what Facebook things I like and there were some weird suggestions in there. I'll share in my next article how to check this yourself. Thanks for the support @clemdane!

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Just taking this opportunity to say "THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING ME"

Use full article , thank you....!

Extremely important topic. Thank you!

Useful explanation.... great article.

Thank you for the kind words

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